I’m not what you’d call a children’s literature maven, but in honor of Children’s Book Week (November 13-19, thus beginning today), I thought I’d say a few words about one particular book–one that my wife and I have given to a fair number of people over the years.The Story of Jumping Mouse, a Native American legend retold and illustrated by John Steptoe, is a wonderful, wonderful picture book with glorious black-and-white drawings. Chances are good you’ll find it in a nearby library via Worldcat.org, since 2,044 libraries report holdings.
The story is about exploration and compassion. My wife discovered it, and I was as taken with the story (and how it’s told) and the pictures as she was. Here’s a brief plot summary:
A small, humble mouse sets off on a journey of discovery to reach the legendary “far-off land” told in tales by the old ones. Along the way, he meets fellow creatures in need, and he responds to their needs with great compassion–by giving away his most precious possessions: his sight and his sense of smell. After much hardship, he reaches the “far-off land” and finds that his unselfish spirit of hope and compassion have brought him to an even greater destiny.
The book dates from 1984 and is a Caldecott Honor Book. If you haven’t read it, do. If you get a lump in your throat…well, you’re not the only one.