The Princess Mouse: A Tale of Finland

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In Mikko's family, when a son is ready to marry, he must chop down a tree and then search for his bride by following the direction in which the tree points. When Mikko's brother chops down his tree, it points right to where his sweetheart lives. But when it's Mikko's turn, the tree points toward the deep, dark woods. What type of sweetheart can Mikko expect to find there? Though his brother taunts that the only wife Mikko will find in the forest will be a wolf or a fox, Mikko sets off optimistically. There he ...
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Overview

In Mikko's family, when a son is ready to marry, he must chop down a tree and then search for his bride by following the direction in which the tree points. When Mikko's brother chops down his tree, it points right to where his sweetheart lives. But when it's Mikko's turn, the tree points toward the deep, dark woods. What type of sweetheart can Mikko expect to find there? Though his brother taunts that the only wife Mikko will find in the forest will be a wolf or a fox, Mikko sets off optimistically. There he meets the most unusual of sweethearts, but one who proves that with an open heart and mind, love can be rewarded in the most surprising and unexpected ways. With luminous illustrations by Leonid Gore, Aaron Shepard retells a classic Finnish folktale that will delight young readers time and time again.

A retelling of a Finnish folk tale about a young man who plans to marry his mouse sweetheart.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Magical events and a moral dilemma give this Finnish tale its staying power. Mikko, the younger son of a farmer, must show courage in the face of scorn in order to win a beautiful bride. Shephard's (Master Man: A Tall Tale from Nigeria) rhythmic prose follows Mikko as he chooses a bride according to his family's custom: he must cut down a tree and walk in the direction that the tree has fallen. When his tree points to the woods, Mikko finds a kindly mouse with a velvet coat "just like the gown of a princess!" Mikko's father sets up a weaving test for the two sons' prospective brides and, with the help of her mouse friends, Mikko's mouse passes. Mikko must overcome his dread that his brother, father and everyone else will think him a fool if he brings home a mouse bride, but he comes to a decision. "I think you're as sweet as any sweetheart could be. So let them laugh and think what they like." After an unexpected plot twist, the groom's resolve is rewarded when she transforms into a princess. Gore's (Sleeping Boy) distinctively angled figures, drawn in pastel on rough paper, deepen the story's folktale feel. Scandinavian sun often shines on the characters' faces while the rest of the scene stays in chilly shadow; the northern spring can almost be felt. Ages 4-8. (Feb.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
It is time for two brothers to marry, but in Mikko's family a tradition must determine who the brides will be. Each son is to cut down a tree and follow the path to which the fallen tree points. One son deliberately cuts a tree that he knows will fall pointing to the city where he already has a sweetheart waiting for him. Mikko's tree, on the other hand, falls toward a forest, and his journey takes him to a house where only a mouse lives. The mouse has many talents and a heart filled with kindness and love. It isn't long before Mikko believes her when she says she can be the perfect bride for him. After passing several tests of skill, the wedding day is set. The coach, pulled by a team of mice, carries the excited bride-to-be, but upon arriving at Mikko's home, the older brother kicks her into a stream where she is carried away by a current. Heartbroken, Mikko turns on his brother and professes his love for the mouse. It is this love that breaks the spell that had been cast on the mouse, and she returns from the water, a beautiful princess. She and Mikko marry and live happily ever after. The wonderfully illustrated book is written in a clear, uncomplicated manner and its predictable ending makes the book comfortable to read. Young children will enjoy hearing this folk tale over and over again. 2003, Simon & Schuster, Josephs
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-The time has come for two brothers to choose their brides, and they must follow the family tradition of cutting down a tree, seeing where it points, and then walking that way until they find a sweetheart. The older sibling arranges for his tree to land in the direction of the house of the girl he wants to marry, but the younger boy's tree points to the forest. The only creature he meets there is a tiny mouse, who declares that she will make him a worthy bride. After both sweethearts pass tests of skill, she does just that, surprising all as an enchantment is broken and she is once again a human princess. Shepard does his usual capable job of retelling this old tale in clear, simple, yet effective prose. Source notes are appended, as is a reference to his Web site, where activities to extend this and other books may be found. Gore's acrylic-and-pastel artwork is a lighthearted match for this whimsical tale, but occasionally the palette lacks variety and readers are overwhelmed by the copious use of greens. On the whole, though, this is a pleasant, attractive addition to folklore shelves.-Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Shepard (Master Man, 2001, etc.) retells an old Finnish tale about a very unusual way of choosing a very unusual bride. Two brothers are old enough to marry and their father reminds them that in family custom, they each must cut down a tree and follow where it points. Now, the older brother knows how to fell a tree so it falls where he wants, and he sets it toward his sweetheart's farm. But the younger brother, Mikko, has no sweetheart and his tree points to the forest. Deep in the woods he finds a cottage and inside a mouse, who stands on her hind legs and tells him she'd be glad to be his sweetheart, and then sings him a little song. The next day, the father sends his sons to bring back cloth woven by their sweethearts-in Shepard's version there is no demand for exceptional quality. Mikko's mouse lets him nap, while an army of her fellow mice weave fine linen that fits into a nutshell. Mikko's father, dazzled by the cloth, sets the next day for the weddings. When Mikko's bride drives up in her tiny nutshell drawn by rats, Mikko's brother, seeing only rodents, kicks them all into the stream. But when Mikko looks up, a beautiful princess in a mouse-colored gown of pearly velvet appears, her enchantment broken. The language is bright and cheery throughout, with the kind of repetition children, and storytellers, love and Shepard offers a reader's theatre script on his Web site. Gore's (The Secret of the Great Houdini, p. 876, etc.) paintings have the velvety texture of their pastel and acrylic medium in deep blues and greens; Finnish-inspired borders decorate textiles and some of the page edges. Prettily told, with sweet lessons about love and trust, no matter how odd the circumstances.(music notation, source notes) (Picture book/fairy tale. 6-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689829123
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 1/7/2003
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.78 (w) x 11.26 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Aaron Shepard has been fascinated by this story since childhood. He is the author of many folktales, including The Sea King's Daughter: A Russian Legend, The Baker's Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale, The Maiden of Northland: A Hero Tale of Finland, and most recently, The Princess Mouse: A Tale of Finland. He lives in the Los Angeles area.

Leonid Gore moved to the US from his native Belarus in 1991. He has illustrated many beloved books for children and is also the author and illustrator of Danny’s First Snow. Mr. Gore lives in Oakland, New Jersey. Visit him online at LeonidGore.com.

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  • Posted November 3, 2008

    The Princess Mouse: A Review

    In Finland, it is tradition for men to choose their brides by cutting down a tree and walking in the direction it points until they find their true love. When Mikko, a farmer's son, cuts down his tree, it points into the forest where the only talking being he comes across is a friendly mouse. The mouse convinces Mikko to let her be his sweetheart, but when the wedding day arrives, the guests are astonished by his choice. His scoffing older brother throws the mouse into the river. Suddenly, the creature turns into a princess and after the wedding ceremony, takes Mikko back to her castle to live. <BR/><BR/>Aaron Shepard's book is an endearing love story that teaches readers not to look solely on a person's outward appearance. The story is simply yet well written and the illustrations are both unique and appropriate for the Scandinavian setting. Young children would enjoy this folktale. <BR/><BR/>Author Aaron Shepard also provides, on the last page of the book, the musical score for the song sung throughout the story. For those who cannot read music, the song can be heard on his website, which also provides readers with additional adventures about the characters and theatrical productions of the story.

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