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The Mouse and His Child

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  2,134 ratings  ·  224 reviews
"What are we, Papa?" the toy mouse child asked his father.
"I don't know," the father answered. "We must wait and see."
A tin father and son dance under a Christmas tree until they break ancient clock-work rules and are themselves broken. Discarded, rescued, repaired by a tramp, they quest for dream of a family and a place of their own - magnificent doll house, plush
Hardcover, 244 pages
Published September 2001 by Arthur A. Levine (first published 1967)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,134 ratings  ·  224 reviews

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Feb 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Abby by: James Crossley
Shelves: children-s, 1001-kids
Simply stunning -- the story of a wind-up mouse & his son and their adventures in the cold mean world beyond the nursery. This is no Velveteen Rabbit, however. After being thrown out in the trash and fixed by a transient, the clockwork toys find themselves enslaved to a greedy rat who rules the dump on the edge of town. Although they eventually manage to escape his clutches, the rat doggedly follows them as they bumble from crisis to crisis, dependent on the mercies of the strangers they ...more
Apr 15, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Russell Hoban is one of those authors I probably haven't given enough of a chance. I've read one book of his I really loved (Amaryllis Night and Day), one I did not get on with at all (The Medusa Frequency), and bits and pieces of a third which, while very, very interesting, would feel more like an intellectual exercise than an entertainment no matter who was writing it (Riddley Walker). Over all of them looms the shadow of The Mouse and His Child, an existentialist children's fantasy that I ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Don't be misled by this book's cover, with its gentle picture of a windup toy mouse
hand in hand with his small son. The Mouse and His Child is and isn't a children's book but it is not recommended for the
soft hearted of any age.

The title characters, a mouse and his child, are toys who seem quite astonished to find themselves in the world,
moving from a toyshop to display items under a Christmas tree to, quite suddenly, the dump. Despite his father's doubts,
despite the adversity of the world
Mar 03, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This is another book in my desultory campaign to re-read books that I liked in childhood and see if they stand up to adult scrutiny.


See the complete review here:
Lyn Elliott
Ive just re-read this wonderful book and this time it resonates even more than it did when I read it to my 9 year old son. He doesn't remember it, and I think now that he was too young for it and another few years would have made tremendous difference to his understanding of the themes, but might also have made him wary of reading a story about talking clockwork toys.
Now he's in his thirties, I think I'll give him a copy of his own.
Everyone should read the story of the clockwork mouse and his
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-s
A pair of toy mice go on a quest for a home, pursued by an evil rat. I read a blog post about this which made me want to read it, and I thought it might be a good introduction to Hoban's adult books. It's a melancholy book with lots of death and I know it would have been too dark for me as a child. It's beautifully written and the helplessness and persistence of the mouse and his child give it the central effect of tenderness and wistfulness. There's some nice humorous bits about absurdist crow ...more
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm finally finished. It took me a year to read this. At first I loved it. Then I felt it got stodgy and seemed a bit of a ramble and I set it aside. But the plight of the mouse and his child kept nagging at me to return. I'm so happy I did. The last third is the best third - problems are resolved and friends reunited and enemies...well, I'm not going to ruin it for you. In the end this proved to be rewarding and uplifting.
Ramsey Hootman
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Existential nihilism for kids! Sounds like I'm joking, and I'm totally not. I first read this book when I was maybe 8 or 10, and it's the first time I remember realizing that literature could be SO much more than just a fun story. On the surface, it's a story about a windup mouse and his son attempting to find their place in a world after being broken and thrown away. They have adventures with various animals in a variety of environments - town dump, bottom of a pond, etc. - all while being ...more
Jun 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: america, reviewed, own, fiction
Fey. Hoban (all Hoban) has an element of fey-ness in his work. Not terribly overwhelming (at least to me), but it's part of what makes Hoban Hoban. As far as I'm concerned. It's obviously related to his children's books. So it might be said that he also wrote children's books for adults. Which some adults (including me) enjoy very much indeed. Because in addition to the fey, there's also a no-holds-barred imagination and insistent refusal to obey any of the standard rules of adult fiction. Which ...more
C. Hollis Crossman
Sep 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book pretty much at random. Frances the Badger was one of my constant and best friends as a child, but I knew nothing about this one and had no expectations either good or bad.

Wow. This is one of the best novels I've ever read.

I don't rate books on this site very often simply because I forget, but I felt impelled to rate The Mouse and His Child. You have to read this, I don't care who you are.

Hoban manages to reinvent the Classical epic genre: instead of a hero trying to get
A children's fantasy on the darker side. Very well-written. Might be scary for young kids.
Brandee Shafer
I loved this. I don't remember reading it as a child, watching the movie, or hearing anything about it. I'm honestly not even sure how the book came to be in my possession, but if it wasn't my favorite of the books I read to my kids this year, it was certainly my favorite of the books I read to my kids that I'd never read, before. (It's hard to compete with Sheila the Great and The Best Christmas Pageant.)

The Mouse and His Child is an adventure story of the caliber of so many other, better
Tory C.
Jan 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, childrens
I discovered this book when I was under a tremendous amount of stress and flirting with the borders of depression. I was aware of my iffy state of mind and was careful in my choice of books. I didn’t need anything like 1984 or Graveyard of the Fireflies which would surely send me into the abyss with a one-way ticket. I started The Mouse and His Child with caution, ready at any moment to shut the book and send it back unfinished should the story take a downward turn—and it seemed at any moment it ...more
Jul 30, 2019 rated it liked it
A very interesting "children's" book. A lot of reviews address this book as dark. I would rather say that it addresses issues we would not normally find ourselves talking to children about and maybe should, especially in this day in age, when it is expected all to be well and all to succeed and the like. Where there is no failure, where life is definitely a struggle, and that without hope and faith, there is little else to sustain us. Things that need to be discussed with children. There are bad ...more
Aug 10, 2012 rated it liked it
3.5 stars --- Of all the films that had a formative effect on me growing up, and The Mouse and His Child ranks near the top. For years I couldn't remember the title, but images such as the dog food can "infinity" scene and the captive pink elephant remained lodged in my brain.

"The Mouse and His Child" is a dark story. It makes "The Secret of NIMH" look positively joyous by comparison. I finally became aware of the book the movie was based upon, and it too, is a decidedly dark piece of children's
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure about the book when I started reading it. The Mouse and his child, stuck together eternally, made me feel claustrophobic, and I could not accept that this was a children's book. Then, suddenly, it just clicked with me, and I started to love it, to the extent I could hardly then put it down.

To me, this is not a kid's book, though I have friends whose kids also love it; this is a book about identity, about growing up and becoming autonomous; this is a book about brutality,
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a book for adults. It is full of adult humor and themes--satire, parody, existentialism, nostalgia... I read it as a fourth grader but I don't think I understood it then, though I hope I enjoyed the adventure story. As an adult I loved it and cried at the end. The last few chapters are very satisfying and tender and smooth it out after all the scary and distressing events earlier in the book. It is a very unique work but if you like rereading classics such as Charlotte's Web as an adult, ...more
Jan 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bedtime stories to give your child nightmares - an extract
“It’s nothing said the frightened donkey as he heard Manny Rat approach his blind side
“I’ve got plenty of work left in me, I was just feeling a little low - you know how it is”
“You’re not well” said Manny Rat “I can see that easily, what you need is a long rest.”
He picked up a heavy rock, lifted it high, and brought it down on the donkeys back, splitting him open like a walnut. “Put his works in the spare parts can” said Manny Rat to
Oscar Despard
Dec 16, 2015 rated it liked it
The Mouse and His Child, by Russell Hoban, is a pleasant yet touching story about a clockwork mouse and his child's search for a territory to call their own. It progresses at a pleasant pace, apart from a somewhat slow and uninteresting part in the middle of the book, it is intriguing throughout. I enjoyed the end a huge amount, and I would recommend it to a friend.
Oct 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books ever.
Apr 20, 2019 rated it liked it
I liked this story but can't be sure who is the target. For a grownup, the cultural satire is clever and sometimes -- as in the case of the Crow's Caws of Art Experimental Theatre Group -- laugh-out-loud funny. But if it's meant for young children, I think it's too violent.

A mechanical mouse, physically attached to the child facing him, leaves the toy shop, first for a family that displays "wind-ups" at Christmas, and eventually for the wide world and its many dangers. The child wants a real
Gretchen Rubin
This was a choice for one of my children's literature reading groups. A sweet story. I do love Hoban's Frances books more, I must confess.
James Geary
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An existential fable; an E.B. White story as told by Samuel Beckett
Aug 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I first heard about the movie adaptation of this book, and after watching it and being both completely unsettled and intrigued by the plot, I went in search of the book as I'm a firm believer that books are generally better than the movies they're based on.

Unfortunately, I'm a blind reader, and finding specific books in a workable format can be a bit hard. But finally I managed it! I sat down with the book and read it in about five hours. I just entirely could not put it down.

This is not a
Aug 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
The title characters of the Mouse and His Child are a toy - a windup mouse father joined by the hands to his son and meant to dance in a circle. Their quest begins when the toy is broken and discarded at the dump. At first, the child's desire for a family gives their life meaning. Then the father begins to see the necessity for them to be self-winding. Their single-minded devotion to their cause earns them both loyal supporters and a sworn enemy.

The Mouse and His Child is heavily allegorical.
Jul 08, 2009 rated it liked it
This book is masquerading as a children's book, but I don't think it's really meant for children. It is filled with startling complex ideas and concepts.

This is the story of a pair of toy windup mice. They are joined at the hands, and when the key in the father's back is wound, they danced in a circle. The child mouse dreams of a happy family, but those dreams are quickly shattered after they are purchased from the toy store, broken, and then thrown away, thus beginning their quest to becoming
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
"The Mouse and His Child" is an interesting book. It was not exactly what I expected. For one thing, even though it's presented as a book for children, it really struck me as much more a book for adults because the whole thing is a metaphor for many adult issues. The mouse and child in question are, in fact, mechanical toy mice. The story follows their adventures from a toy shop to being bought and discarded, and everything that follows. At its heart, this is a book about a journey of ...more
Apr 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: heard
As strange and disturbing as one expects from the pen of Hoban. This is closer to Riddley Walker, Expanded Edition than to Frances, for certain. It's deeply symbolic and I think that it would reward any number of readings. There's just so much going on beneath the surface, and listening to it was not the proper choice for a first go-round, as my mind sometimes wandered and I was constantly rewinding. Or whatever it's called now, backtracking? I don't know that I've got the fortitude to read it ...more
Sep 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Fantasy of the EB White type but with a more malevolent road for the central characters to follow than Stuart Little had. A clockwork mouse who dances holding his little son is damaged by accident and thrown away. Retrieved from the trash by a tramp who does jury-rigged repair on them, the duo out on a dangerous journey to find someone who can repair them fully.

More for adults than young children, though I put it on the younger readers shelf. This is the Russell Hoban who wrote the books about
Oct 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book is a wonderful and at times heartbreaking story. I got it because I remembered seeing an animated movie of this when I was little. This book has much, much more than the film, and is just beautifully written. I think it'd be great for all ages, even though it's usually marketed for younger ages. It's got some very weighty concepts and deep philosophical ideas, and several bits that would be entertaining to younger readers, but would make more sense to adults. (There's a very ...more
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Young Adult Ficti...: Recommending a Child/YA book by Russell Hoban 1 29 Sep 12, 2011 09:55AM  

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Russell Conwell Hoban was an American expatriate writer. His works span many genres, including fantasy, science fiction, mainstream fiction, magical realism, poetry, and children's books. He lived in London, England, from 1969 until his death.(Wikipedia) ...more
“Have you paused to consider that there is no way out? Each way out of one situation necessarily being the way into another situation.” 9 likes
“Where are we?' the mouse child asked his father. His voice was tiny in the stillness of the night. 'I don't know' the father replied. 'What are we Papa?'. 'I don't know. We must wait and see'.” 5 likes
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