When I was a child, The Church Mouse by Graham Oakley was one of my favorite books. It originally came out in Britain in 1974, and I honestly cannot tell you how many times I read the book and looked at the detailed artwork. I was thrilled when I saw that this book is now available in the U.S, and I hope the other books about Arthur the mouse and his friend Sampson make it across "the pond" soon.
For ages 5 to 8
Kane/Miller, 2010, 978-1-935279-69-3
In a busy town, in the church, lives a mouse called Arthur. Arthur’s best friend is Sampson, a cat who has heard so many sermons about “the meek being blessed” and universal brotherhood, that he treats Arthur like a friend and not like a dinner on four legs.
Though Arthur has a good life, he is a little lonely. Then one day he gets a brilliant idea, which the parson approves. Arthur goes into the town and he invites as many mice as he can find to come and live in the church. The parson will pay the mice in cheese, and in return they will do some odd jobs around the church. The town mice love this idea. What could be better than a life in a place where there are no mouse traps and no nasty cats or dogs or other dangers.
The plan works very well for a while. The mice clean up the church, polish the brasses, arrange flowers, and other chores, and in return they are fed by the parson and have a life free of care.
Then one Sunday Sampson falls asleep during the sermon, and when he wakes up he discovers that he is chasing mice all over the church, causing chaos. In his dreams Sampson dreamed that he was his former unreformed self, the self that chased mice instead of befriending them. The people in the congregation are furious, and they demand that the parson get rid of the mice or they will “never come back.” The parson has no choice but to ask the mice to leave.
In this delightful picture book, readers will see how a friendship develops between two unlikely animals, and how that friendship is tested and saved. With wonderfully detailed illustrations and a text that is touched with humor in all the right places, Graham Oakley gives readers a tale that children and adults alike will enjoy sharing again and again.