Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Post for Russell

Russell Hoban, author of 60 books for children, passed away yesterday at the age of 86. Although known most famously for those beloved badger books about Frances, my favorite of his has always been "A Mouse and His Child" (1967). An incredibly profound and moving story, I think it deserves to take up room on anyone's bookshelf.

     "The mouse and his child, unwound, came to a stop, while their captor sat down on the edge of the hole where the television screen had been and ate his salami. As he looked up into the night, the massed clouds lifted to reveal the sky. The moon had set; the stars were sharp and clear. Low above the horizon wheeled Orion the Hunter, and near the luminous scattering of the Milky Way, in the Great Dog constellation, blazed Sirius, the brightest star of all. Manny Rat liked dark nights best; he grimaced at the stars and turned away.
      Standing as he was on uneven ground, the child was tilted at such an angle that he too saw the Dog Star, beyond his father’s shoulder. He had never looked up at the sky before; indeed, he had as yet seen little of the earth, and even that little was more frightening than he had imagined. At first the icy glitter of the far-off star was terrifying to him; he sensed a distance so vast as to reduce him to nothing. But as he looked and looked upon that steady burning he was comforted a little ; if he was nothing, he thought, so also was this rat and all the dump. His father’s hands were firm upon his, and he resolved to see what next the great world offered."

{from the David Small illustrated edition, page 27}

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