‘Little Mouse Helps Out’ by Riikka Jäntti (Review)

Scribe Publications are one of the few Australian publishers who commission translations, and I’ve already covered several of their books by authors such as Hwang Sok-yong, Tommy Wieringa and Gerbrand Bakker.  However, recently they added another string to their translation bow with a few works in their new Scribble children’s imprint being brought into English.

Now, as many readers will know, I do have someone to handle that side of things, but with the most recent arrival being for rather younger children, Emily wasn’t that keen.  Luckily, though, I had a competent back-up ready and willing to take on the task 🙂

*****
Tell me about yourself.
My name is Hayley Malone, and I’m seven years old.  I like reading, playing with my sister and dancing.

What’s the name of the book, and who is it by?
The book is called Little Mouse Helps Out, and it’s written and illustrated by Riikka Jäntti (the translation is by Lola Rogers).

What’s it about?
It’s about a mouse called Little Mouse.  In the book, he helps Mummy to clean the house because his friend is coming, and they don’t want to get it all messy.   And then his friend Pip rungs the doorbell, and they go to make a fort.  After they made the fort, Pip had Little Mouse’s bear, so Little Mouse was angry, but Mummy made it OK.  The doorbell rang – it was Pip’s Mum.  Pip said goodbye.  Then Little Mouse had to get ready for bed.

Did you like it?  Why (not)?
Yes.  Because I liked when Little Mouse and Pip got over snatching the toy and played together nicely.

What was your favourite part?
My favourite part was when Pip was at the door because Little Mouse was excited.

Was it difficult to read?
No (shy expression!).

Would you recommend this book to other boys and girls?  Why (not)?
Yes, I would.  Because I think they would like the pictures, and maybe they would like the story.

Hayley, thank you very much 🙂

*****
Coincidentally enough, Emily was also seven when she began her reviewing ‘career’, so it was nice to give Hayley a chance with this book (and she was *very* excited when I told her that the publisher had sent it just for her!).  She’s just beginning to read independently, albeit slowly, so this was a nice book for us to go through together, even if it’s probably more suited to younger children.  First, she read it to me slowly over a few evenings as reading homework, then I read it to her again, and we chatted about it before starting the review.

As Hayley said, the main plot of the book (and it’s a simple descriptive story without any major plot twists) concerns preparations for the visit of Little Mouse’s friend Pip.  The book starts with the hero of the piece waking his mother up and ends with him being put to bed in the evening.  The whole book is dominated by Jäntti’s beautiful illustrations (it’s very much a visual work), and most young children will easily be able to see themselves in the role of Little Mouse.

However, it’s a clever book in that while nothing happens, there’s definitely a theme running through it.  Little Mouse Helps Out is all about the young mouse being given the opportunity to do things by himself, with his mother prepared to let him experiment with housework, even if the result isn’t always what she might have wished:

Mummy Mouse got the breakfast ready.  The toast smelled good.  “I want to pour the juice myself,” said Little Mouse.
He poured the juice into a glass.
“Oops!”  It spilled on the table.
“That’s all right,” said Mummy Mouse, and she wiped it up.
(Scribble 2017)

Throughout the book, Little Mouse is given the opportunity to do things for himself, helping out with mopping the floor, cleaning the toilet(!) and putting tomato sauce on his pasta bake (which my little helper particularly identified with, given that she did the same thing at dinner yesterday!).  By the end of the book, he’s turned the tables, telling his mother a goodnight story instead of being read to.  There’s a parenting lesson to be learned here from Mummy Mouse, a technique that I have to say we haven’t fully adopted ourselves yet…

The book reads beautifully, even if it is rather simple, and as is the case with many of the books Emily has reviewed over the years, Little Mouse Helps Out has been brought into English by a translator with great experience in translating adult literary fiction, Lola Rogers (probably best known for Sofi Oksanen’s Purged).  As you can see from the photo with Hayley, it’s a smallish hardback book, ideal for little hands, and Jäntti’s illustration are lovely 🙂

In truth, Little Mouse Helps Out is probably better suited to under-fives than children Hayley’s age, but we enjoyed reading it together anyway.  And if you like the sound of that, there’s another book in the series, introducing our Mousey friend (Little Mouse), and another one on the way later this year.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some housework to do – I wonder if Hayley would like to help me…

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