56 pages; New York Review of Books
"What more do you want?" asks the exasperated husband—hardly a unique question, unless the husband happens to be a mouse, the setting a creaky old residence with plenty of chinks to nest in, and the mouse spouse a twitchy female with cravings that cheese can never satisfy. Rumer Godden's The Mousewife, first published in 1951 and reissued by The New York Review Children's Collection, is a gentle fable of liberation that the prolific British novelist and biographer, who died in 1998, wrote after escaping a loveless first marriage. Scrounging for food while her husband languishes with indigestion, Godden's dutiful mousewife learns about the world outside the house's window from a turtledove trapped in a gilded cage. "He could not tell her what dew was, but he told her how it shines on the leaves and grass in the early morning for doves to drink," and how the wind "blew in the cornfields, making patterns in the corn." Disarmingly illustrated by William Péne du Bois, this little book makes a case for empathy and daring: Why creep when you can fly?
— Cathleen Medwick