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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Of Mice . . .

Hildegard sighed a loud, squeaking, outraged sort of sigh, when she was informed that a new litter of mouselets had been born in the sexton’s closet.  Such bad timing!  Such bad placement!

Such the disappointment! Oops.  Wrong book.  That was THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX, of course, and this is BLESS THIS MOUSE by Lois Lowry, one of three books by Newbery Medalists published this year about mice.  This one hasn’t gotten nearly the buzz that the other two have, but it does have its charms.

“I’m not finished foraging,” Fredle protested. There was something on the floor behind the table leg. It didn’t smell like food, but you could never be sure. Besides, if it wasn’t food, Fredle wondered, what was it?

“That’s metal,” Axle said, adding, “Mice don’t eat metal, Fredle,” as if he didn’t already know that.

YOUNG FREDLE by Cynthia Voigt is a companion novel to ANGUS AND SADIE (about a pair of dogs who also live on the Davis farm).  It has been recommended several times in the comments.

The first we heard of it was when my sister Louise came skittering down the long passage from upstairs.  Louise skitters.

I forget what Beatrice and I were doing when Louise flung herself among us.  I believe Beatrice was crumbing the table.  We were beginning to think about lunch, and I’d had some mending.  Our brother, Lamont, would have been at school.  We hoped.

After a long string of historical fiction novels, Peck returned to contemporary YA for THREE QUARTERS DEAD, before this unexpected foray into . . . talking mice.  Like YOUNG FREDLE, SECRETS AT SEA has been heartily recommended in the comments.

Most people assume that a graphic novel cannot be considered for the Newbery, but I tried to make cases for STITCHES and THE ODYSSEY in each of the past couple years.  Those books had an additonal strike against them, STITCHES being published for adults and THE ODYSSEY possibly not being “original work,” or at least not original enough.  I’m biding my time for the right one.  I’m not sure that either of these are the right one, but Holm, a three-time Newbery Honor author, published a couple more volumes in her ever popular series, BABYMOUSE: MAD SCIENTIST and A VERY BABYMOUSE CHRISTMAS.

“My esteemed friends and neighbors, today we have been afforded by the hard hand of Fate . . . a gentle blow.  A cat has come to The Cheese–“

A high pitched murmur ran through the crowd.

“Silence, please!”

Again Pip held aloft the bit of Cheshire.  A slow lulling of the chatter was followed by a tense stillness, “I say a gentle blow, for it seems that where we should expect enmity, we have found amity; where we might rightly expect a threat, we have found goodwill.  This is no ordinary cat.  This cat has no taste for mice.  He eats . . . ” Pip paused for effect.  “He eats CHEESE!”

Neither Carmen Agra Deedy nor Randall Wright have the Newbery pedigree of the other authors mentioned here, but THE CHESHIRE CHEESE CAT may well be the best of the bunch.  The Newbery Medal has done well by mice in the past, most notably with MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH and THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX.  Can this one–can any of these–join that illustrious pair?


Jonathan Hunt About Jonathan Hunt

Jonathan Hunt is the Coordinator of Library Media Services at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Caldecott Medal, the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at


  1. Jonathan Hunt says:
  2. Spoiler — definitely some deleted mice in the Deedy/Wright.

  3. I’m only probably going to fit in reading of one of these three titles. The one I’d like to read the most is the Peck title but interestingly enough, it’s the only one of the three above that I don’t own! Scholastic book order points have been good to me the last few years!

    Any suggestions? YOUNG FREDLE is kind of the one I’m steering toward. Jonathan or Nina, either of you willing to lay hints at any of these and the possibility of them being on a shortlist . . .

  4. I highly, highly, highly recommend The Cheshire Cheese Cat:)

  5. I just listened to YOUNG FREDLE, and, charming narration aside, what stood out to me was its interesting theme: a sort of sociological study of small animal lifestyles, and what environment has to do with culture. The pantry mice, the cellar mice, the attic mice and the woodshed mice, not to mention the raccoons and other animals, all have their modes of being, and all are explored or discussed with interest and thoughtfulness by our tiny hero. Spoiler alert: the cellar mice have it best, living relatively stress-free owing to plenty of food (Mr and Mrs store food down in the cellar) and lack of predators. (I can imagine this being used in an early elementary discussion about human geography.) But it’s all done with a light touch, introducing these ideas through the lens of Fredle’s growing comprehension, so it doesn’t read (or, ahem, sound) dry at all.

  6. Eric Carpenter says:

    I too really enjoyed The Cheshire Cheese Cat. Don’t see it getting my newbery vote but it was quite good. Plus it got me wikipediaing 19th century british authors!

    Plus Moser’s illustrations are top notch.

  7. I’m the midst of reading The Cheshire Cheese Cat to my third graders and they are loving it!

  8. I loved The Cheshire Cheese Cat and think its a very solid contender. The novel did two important things very well – 1. The talking animals were not annoying. I am not a big talking animals in books person but they did it right. I love Lowry’s work but right from beginning I was not a fan of the talking mice in Bless This Mouse. 2.The language was so much fun. They didn’t over do it with the hat tip to Dickens which could’ve easily happened and ruined a great story.

  9. It seems to be a popular choice here, but I will add my voice and say that I loved The Chesire Cheese Cat. Every word. I loved the Dickens references and how they were just perfect pitched. They never let him become the story. I thought the relationship between Pip and Skilley was developed well and strangely realistic. (And not only is the main mouse an orphan but became one in a most gruesome way.)

    I don’t think it would get my top vote but I can certainly see the committee finding it worthy. I haven’t read the others mentioned because my tolerance for talking animal books is exceedingly low and one a year is about all I can handle.

  10. Just came across a wonderful interview author James Preller did with Carmen Deedy about The Chesire Cheese Cat.

  11. Re: Cheshire Cheese Cat – Everyone is correct. Tis a delight.

  12. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I’m still in the middle of YOUNG FREDLE and SECRETS AT SEA and liking both of them very much, but if I had to pick one of these, I too think it would be THE CHESHIRE CHEESE CAT.

  13. Cheshire Cheese for me too! Unless I were recommending one to a fan of regency romance novels, and then it would be Secrets at Sea.

  14. I was intrigued that the venerable trio of Lowry, Voigt, and Peck all came out with talking mouse books this year, so I read all three books and posted about them in some detail a week or so ago:

    So far, I’m most impressed by Young Fredle, which I found well made and touching. But I’m hearing so much about The Cheshire Cheese Cat that I’ll have to get my hands on a copy!

  15. Elle Librarian says:

    I’ve read BLESS THIS MOUSE and YOUNG FREDLE. Of the two, I’d pick YOUNG FREDLE as the stronger contender. However, neither are in my top ten this year.


  1. […] on the School Library Journal website put together a two part series of book reviews. The first, Of Mice…, features books full of glorious mice, while his second post, …and Men, looks at books all […]

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