Children’s Book Week

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, 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:

Story of Jumping Mouse)

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.

5 Responses to “Children’s Book Week”

  1. Sonya Oliver says:

    Walt – I would love to see your comments about this book appear on its record in It would be a great addition!

  2. walt says:


    You know, that would never have occurred to me (just as I don’t enter my old-movie reviews on IMDB)… but, since you mention it: Done.

  3. George says:

    I first heard the story of jumping mouse from John Shannon, half of the wonderful team of Schreiber Shannon Associates, the facilitators of several of the library leadership programs around the world. It is so moving and so appropriate for our world that I wish they would issue us copies with our MLS degrees!

  4. walt says:

    And if they actually gave out copies of the book, even librarians who don’t care about children’s literature would start out with a respect for first-rate illustrations and the strengths of the picture book format.

    Admission: I started out describing the actual physical nature of the book. Then I showed the draft post to my wife, the librarian (who made some great additions to the description). She laughed and said “You just described a standard picture book.” So I took all that out and changed “little” to “picture.”

    Sonya, if you happen to come back here: Have you made the same suggestion to the proprietors of A Fuse #8 Production
    and Kids Lit

    Both of them write a lot of excellent reviews of children’s books, I think roughly one a day, and both of them link to for the books being reviewed; seems like either or both might be open to going back to that link and adding their review when it’s finished. You could start to accumulate a fair number of really well-written reviews by librarians who know the field and love it.

  5. walt says:

    [If anyone comes back here from my comment on George Needham’s post at It’s All Good… OK, so I was 39 years old when this book came out, not 29.]