Sunday, April 20, 2014

Walter the Lazy Mouse by Marjorie Flack

Walter the Lazy Mouse by Marjorie Flack, illustrated by Cyndy Szekeres

Rating: 4.5 stars

Walter sleeps through his family moving. That's lazy for ya. He sets off to find them and transforms himself into a hard-working young lad, a giver not a taker, alert not get the picture. A coming of age story, of a mouse.

Of course, there's a little more to the story (there always is).  Walter wakes, surprisingly calm for a kid who woke up alone, without the family that surrounded him when he fell asleep. He sets off to find that family.  He makes some friends and realizes he can't let other people take care of him for the rest of his life.  He meets three funny unnamed frogs that can't for the life of them remember Walter throughout their friendship with him.  Within hours of "see you later" the frogs are back to "who are you?"  It's a funny twist for Lorelei, but troublesome to me (my brain can't stop searching for the metaphoric or symbolic reason they can't remember his name).  Through his friendship with these three amphibians, Walter becomes a responsible guy.  He erects his own house, builds his own furniture, learns how to swim, teaches the frogs (incorrectly), and becomes a stand-up mouse.

Lorelei holds Jessica's mom's childhood copy of Walter.
He's ready to join his family, who are overjoyed to see him (but with a dozen siblings, I get the feeling his mom barely noticed his month-long absence).  They are impressed with and proud of his growth, but it's Walter's pride and new-found confidence in himself that really matters.

The book is ten short chapters, with plenty of sweet illustrations by Cydney Szekeres.  Written in 1937, this is a pretty old book, but still a great, charming read.  It is a great early chapter book for kids to read alone or with their favorite parent (hopefully that's you).

This was Lorelei's friend Jessica's choice for book club this month, and it was a really good one.  Yesterday we met at a coffee shop to chat about the book; Jessica and her mom prepared some good questions for us to discuss.  The girls tossed around these and other questions: 

  • How does Walter feel when his family moves away?
  • What would you do if you came home and couldn't find anyone?
  • Do you think the frogs are good friends?  Why or why not?
  • Would you want to be Walter?
  • Are you ever lazy?  When?  Give some examples of how you are not lazy.

The discussion, as always, was pretty funny--after dutifully answering the question about how they're lazy in little ways, they threw their classmates under the bus for being lazy in big ways.  Lorelei brought up how Walter says he's hungry but he never eats throughout the whole book.  And then, when discussing how many siblings Walter has, the conversation turned to the siblings in Lorelei and Jessica's lives.  They both have two, but Lorelei has two little brothers and Jessica has two older sisters. The girls whipped out pens and paper and drew up a Venn diagram to compare their situations.  When a conversation with two first graders end with a Venn diagram, you know they aren't lazy Walter-types!

As always, it was a delightful way to spend an afternoon.  Next month (Lorelei's choice): Mr. Popper's Penguins!

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