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Mahalia Mouse Goes to College: Book and CD


Mahalia Mouse and her family live underneath Dunster House, an old Harvard dormitory. Foraging for food for her younger brothers and sisters, Mahalia gets trapped in a backpack and then finds herself inside a classroom far from home. Mahalia, intrigued by the lecture, starts attending classes and soon becomes a full-time student — all the while wondering about the fate of her family. But when graduation day finally arrives, Mahalia has a wonderful surprise waiting for her.


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Mahalia Mouse and her family live underneath Dunster House, an old Harvard dormitory. Foraging for food for her younger brothers and sisters, Mahalia gets trapped in a backpack and then finds herself inside a classroom far from home. Mahalia, intrigued by the lecture, starts attending classes and soon becomes a full-time student — all the while wondering about the fate of her family. But when graduation day finally arrives, Mahalia has a wonderful surprise waiting for her.

Written as part of his keynote address at Harvard's commencement, this latest book from John Lithgow (class of '67) incorporates his trademark witty rhymes and includes a CD of him reading the text at the commencement. Mahalia's story has an inspiring message for graduates or anyone whose success is worthy of celebration.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Award-winning actor and author John Lithgow brought down the house when he read this story into his keynote address at a Harvard commencement. Now Mahalia the matriculating mouse makes her proper debut in a new children's picture book with an empowering message about the value of education. Transported to a college lecture hall in a student's backpack, Mahalia enters the halls of academia quite by accident; but she stays around long enough to attain success, fulfillment, and a Harvard degree! Parents may need to explain some of the sophisticated vocabulary in the story, but kids will respond enthusiastically to Igor Oleynikov's charming illustrations -- not to mention Lithgow's intoxicating rhymes. A bonus CD captures the author's reading at the graduation ceremony.
Publishers Weekly

As he did in Micawber, about an art-loving squirrel, Lithgow presents another tale of an anthropomorphized critter craving culture. This time, it's the lure of higher education that captures the fancy of a brave, starving mouse who, following the scent of cheese, inadvertently becomes a stowaway in a college student's backpack. (Lithgow wrote the text as part of his keynote address to his alma mater's—Harvard College—graduating class of 2005; a CD recording of it is included.) After finding herself in a lecture hall, Mahalia becomes "professor's pet" when the instructor discovers her class notes, which clearly indicate genius tendencies. Much like the other selections in Lithgow's children's book repertoire, the adventure unfolds in musical-sounding verse, but here, because of the dire circumstances of Mahalia's family, the singsong tone seems inappropriate (e.g., "Tormented by fears of a grim holocaust,/ She pictured her home and her family lost!"). Readers willing to buy into the fantasy of a mouse-sized laptop, bookbag and graduation cap and gown may enjoy exploring Oleynikov's striking mixed-media illustrations from a mouse's viewpoint (and set on a slightly impressionistic campus recognizable to those who have visited Cambridge, Mass.). But Mahalia's determination to earn a degree works better as a quirky segment of Lithgow's commencement speech than as a picture book text, and may leave some young readers puzzled. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz
It may not be logical, but just accept and enjoy the fantastic tale of Mahalia Mouse, told in deftly crafted verses. Searching for food for her hungry family, she finds herself in a Harvard lecture hall, enjoying an "extremely advanced" course on atoms and space. She thinks the lectures are fascinating, until one day she is discovered and panic erupts. But when the professor happens upon her notes, he is so impressed that he sets her up for four rich and rewarding years of study, sports, even acting. At graduation, her parents, having read about her in the newspaper, proudly attend. Mahalia's story has an unbelievable but delightful ending. Gouache and digital manipulating create atmospheric double pages filled with the mouse family's nest, rain-blurred college buildings, fluorescent-lit lecture hall, and the crowd of cap and gown and mortar-board clad students celebrating with Mahalia and her family. Lithgow reads his text to an appreciative Harvard commencement audience on an included CD.
School Library Journal

Gr 3 & Up - This sophisticated story is part of Lithgow's commencement speech to Harvard's class of 2005. Rhyming verses introduce Mahalia, a mouse who leaves her impoverished family behind to search for food. She finds herself interested in a science course after accidentally ending up in a Harvard classroom in a student's backpack. Her diligence and intelligence win the professor's support, and she goes on to complete four years of study. She graduates, thus ending this "story of stout self-reliance;/An epic account on a miniature scale/Of a mouse who set forth on life's bumpy trail/And succeeded by simply refusing to fail." Children can appreciate the tiny protagonist's persistence, but some concepts like professors, lab fees, and lectures will need to be explained. The art is rendered in gouache then digitally treated, resulting in a dark, at times somber, palette. The illustrations are exuberant whether depicting the joy on graduates' faces or their horror at spotting a mouse in their lecture hall. The accompanying CD is a live recording of the story from the commencement ceremony, and it is a joy to listen to Lithgow's musical cadence and hear the audience's reactions to this presentation.-Linda M. Kenton, San Rafael Public Library, CA

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416927150
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 3/27/2007
  • Edition description: Repackage
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 231,094
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.80 (w) x 11.20 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

John Lithgow

John Lithgow is the New York Times bestselling author of I Got Two Dogs; Mahalia Mouse Goes to College; Marsupial Sue Presents: The Runaway Pancake; I’m A Manatee; Micawber; Marsupial Sue; The Remarkable Farkle McBride; and Carnival of the Animals. An award-winning actor, he has starred on stage, film, and television. He performs concerts across the country and has recorded the CDs Farkle and Friends, Singin’ in the Bathtub, and The Sunny Side of the Street. Visit John at

Igor Oleynikov worked as an assistant at an animation studio in Russia, and became the art director there. He has illustrated a number of children's books that were published in Europe, and his artwork was featured at the 2004 Bologna Children's Book Fair. Igor Oleynikov lives in Moscow.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2007

    An Adorable Character

    This book shows the power of education with an adorable character and expressive llustrations.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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