The Church Mouse – Graham Oakley

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point.

I liked this book a lot more than I expected to. I was expecting a relatively twee British cat and mouse tale, but what I got was something witty and funny and really pretty marvellous.

Unfortunately it still fails all the metrics – no named female characters at all, let alone ones who speak, and not a person of colour in sight.

The story is not particularly original – the mice make a deal with the parson that they will help out in the church in exchange for being allowed to live there safely. The congregation find out and get rather upset about it. The mice foil a church burglary where the burglar was going to steal some much beloved candlesticks. The people see the error of their ways, everyone becomes friends and they all live happily ever after.

The thing that makes this book so enjoyable is that it pulls off something only the very best children’s picture books do – it engages the child (mine was entranced) while being peppered with enough jokes and nods to the adult reader that it’s also fun to read. I am particularly fond of the schoolmouse who is always trying to be clever, because let’s face it, we all know that guy. 😉

The jokes are delivered in a totally straight-faced narrative voice, so that I kept having to stop to chuckle, and C would say, “What’s funny, Mommy?” and I’d realise how hard it would be to explain to a five year old why it was funny that some people only come to church to check that the candlesticks are still there, and we’d move on.

Despite its low score, I’d still recommend it. It is a remarkably well-written little tale, and if you like dry subtle humour and your kids like animal tales, it will probably become a favourite.

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