In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A moose named Mona

Dear Annie,

I trust your brief beach vacation is relaxing and entertaining.

As promised, I've found
The Guest
by James Marshall. It's  a wonderful friendship story in the tradition of George and Martha.  Unfortunately it's currently out of print, but worth searching for in a library or alibris.

"One rainy afternoon while Mona was practicing her scales," it starts, "she had the oddest feeling.  'I must be catching the flu,' she said to herself."

But it turns out to be Maurice, a pink-shelled snail, walking up her back.  She offers him chocolate milk and cookies, he tells her his life has been getting boring, and she invites him to be her guest.  They play and do chores together.  Mona is shocked when Maurice tells her that in France they eat snails: "I'm told we are very tasty."

After some days, Maurice gets moody, then disappears.  Mona is depressed, worries that he's gone to France, makes mistakes at her job at Flora's Cafe, and posts a sign:

 Finally, while she's playing the piano yet again, Maurice reappears -- with his family! He introduces her to 20 snails -- all with French names -- but never points out which is his spouse, if he has one.  A good time is had by all.

I'm fond of the gentle friendship of this book and of course the fact that the main character is both a moose and bears the name of one of my children.  But it also has the nagging little problem of part-time dad, epitomized in the classic Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey. In that, father duck leaves mom to raise the kids alone and walk them across Boston to the new home he's found.  In this, Maurice found life with 19 or 20 children to take care of "was getting boring," so he left.  Ah, the little contradictions of children's literature.  But it's still so entertaining...



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