Title: Alexander and the Wind-Up MouseAlexander and the Wind-Up Mouse
Author: Leo Lionni
Pages: 32
Reading Level: Read-Aloud
Star Rating: ★★

I bought Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse because 1) The little wind-up mouse on the front cover looked cute and 2) so did the Caldecott Honor Medal. I’ve found many other Caldecotts delightful (Blueberries for Sal, Prayers for a Child, The Biggest Bear, Thy Friend Obadiah), and hoped that this one would charm me as well. It didn’t.

It was really cute in the beginning. Alexander is a free mouse who gets chased and shrieked at every time he ventures out of his hiding place for a few crumbs. When he meets Willy the wind-up mouse, he becomes jealous – Willy just has life so much better than Alexander! No one is scared of him or chases him, and he is Annie’s favorite toy.

Alexander begins to wish that he was a wind-up toy, too. One day, Willy tells him a strange story. Willy’s heard that there lives in the garden a “magic lizard” who can change one animal into another. Alexander visits this lizard who agrees to change Alexander into a wind-up mouse if Alexander brings a purple pebble to him at the full moon.

Alexander searches and searches until he finds the purple pebble. But on the last day, he discovers that Annie has grown tired of Willy and has decided to throw him away. Alexander rushes off to the lizard and, instead of asking to be turned into a wind up mouse, instead asks that Willy be turned into a real mouse. The lizard blinks, the pebble disappears, and voila – Willy is a real live mouse!

Apart from the whole issue of the lizard-with-magical-powers, I just didn’t quite understand this story. It’s almost as though the author couldn’t decide whether to write a children’s read-aloud or beginning reader, so he straddled the fence and created a story that is awkward in its room for development but lack thereof. My biggest complaint (not morally, but as a story-teller) is that the rescue of Willy doesn’t require any sacrifice from Alexander. He didn’t have to sacrifice his chance from a happy life (Annie’s disposal of Willy proves that Alexander’s free life is better) – he just turns the pebble over and hopes for the best. There was never a moment of emotional release (although there was plenty of drama.)

Gracious me. Did I just write five paragraphs about a children’s read aloud? *facepalm*

Conclusion. I much prefer the Caldecott medalists that I mentioned above to Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse.

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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