When a Newbery Medalist and a Caldecott Medalist get together to produce a children’s book, you know you are in for a good one. Lois Lowry and Eric Rohmann collaborated on Bless This Mouse – the tale of a church mouse who leads her followers to safe haven.
Hildegarde, the mouse mistress of St. Bartholomew’s Church, not only protects her flock of over 200 church mice but she also manages to educate them and the reader with lessons on the correct vocabulary for different sections of the church building – the narthex, transept, nave. Rohmann conveniently includes a graphic for reference, and her resident scholar mouse, Ignatius, a former university library mouse, delivers important research information on the latest mousetraps – scented glue.
When a group of adolescent mice run wild in plain sight of the sacristy ladies, Father Murphy decides to call the exterminator. Hildegarde’s preventative measures include eating the telephone book so he won’t have the phone number, but the mice mistakenly look for “the Great X” under “x” instead of “ex,” and they are forced to evacuate in the great “exodus” to the church cemetery to wait until the church is safe to reenter.
Lowry humorously personifies her characters with human foibles and misplaced pride, and includes a reconnaissance mission with 52 mice carrying 52 playing cards to disarm the glue traps. She neatly wraps up the narrative with Father Murphy’s blessing of the animals, including Hildegarde, on the feast of St. Francis – with a lively negotiation between the mouse leader and the priest at the end.