Sunday, July 10, 2011

Book Review: Walter, the Lazy Mouse by Marjorie Flack (1937)

Walter is a very lazy mouse. He is always late to school, and spends so much time in bed that when his family moves away, they leave him behind.  Alone and scared, Walter heads out into the world in search of his mother, father, and siblings. After getting lost in a dark forest, he makes friends with a turtle and becomes the sole inhabitant of his own island, which he names Mouse Island after himself. He also befriends three frogs, whom he names (Lulu, Leander, and Percy), clothes, and attempts to educate. Having his own island - and friends who depend on him - means Walter can't be lazy anymore. He must find ways to clothe, feed, and shelter himself,  and when things don't go right, he is the only one around to fix them. In the end, he overcomes his laziness, and reunites with his family, who realize just how much he has changed.
I don't generally like books about talking animals, but this book quickly became an exception. The illustrations, which show realistic-looking frogs, turtles, and mice in equally realistic natural surroundings, are completely charming, and the story itself, though somewhat unusual, kept me interested from beginning to end. I especially loved the strangeness of the frog characters. They needed constant contact with Walter to be able to remember him, and in times when Walter wasn't around, they forgot everything he taught them, including their own names! Turtle was a comforting character, and certainly one I would have latched onto as a child, since the circumstances of Walter's abandonment would have troubled me quite a bit. He seemed to be the voice of reason throughout the book, and a surrogate parent for Walter in the absence of his own mom and dad.

They don't write books like this anymore, and I think that's a shame. Walter's story is the kind of adventure kids love to read about, and the way Flack imagines the personalities of different woodland animals really impressed me. Despite the obvious lesson the story wants to teach - don't be lazy - there is a lot of clever creativity at play in this book, and it makes for a truly unique and wonderful reading experience.

Marjorie Flack is also the author of one of my childhood favorites, The Story About Ping, as well as Angus and the Ducks and The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes. She passed away in 1958, but her memory lives on through The Marjorie Flack Award for Fiction, an annual creative writing award at Anne Arundel Community College.

No comments:

Post a Comment