The Rectory Mice
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On our cover this month we feature an illustration from The Swineherd, a picture book version of the Andersen fairy tale by artist Lisbeth Zwerger. (Neugebauer Press, 0 907234 127, £3.95 from A. and C. Black). We are grateful to A. and C. Black for help in using this illustration. The roundel used on the Hans Andersen pages is from the wood engraving by Gwen Raverat for Four Tales, translated by R. P. Keigwin, C.U.P. (1935). It and the Punch cartoon on page 16 appear in Brian Alderson's pamphlet Hans Christian Andersen and his Eventyr in England.
'But why do they want to kill each other? Isn't that very wasteful?' Thus said Tamburlaine Mouse to his father as they observed the preparations for war at the rectory where British soldiers are billeted in 1914. Parallel to the human story, George MacBeth tells of a family of mice fighting the battle for survival in the attic. Tamburlaine finds violence exciting and those who die heroic. He is to die himself when the mice are smoked out of the attic. The Rectory Mice is a metaphoric tale taking an ironic look at human behaviour through the eyes and lives of the mice. Young readers may be misled into thinking it is an easy read. It is however linguistically quite a challenge and accessible really to the eleven plus group. With sensitive discussion it should read aloud well to a top primary class.