Review: The Mouse Who Saved Egypt by Karim Alrawi and Bee Willey

The Mouse who Saved Egypt, written by Karim Alrawi, illustrated by Bee Willey (Tradewind Books, 2011)

The Mouse Who Saved Egypt
written by Karim Alrawi, illustrated by Bee Willey
(Tradewind Books, 2011 / Crocodile Books (US), 2011)

One day in Ancient Egypt a prince rescues a mouse caught in a thorn bush. This simple act of kindness has significant repurcussions several years later when the mouse repays the prince (now Pharaoh) by bringing his fellow mice together to defeat an invading army.

The beautifully illustrated story carries echoes of Aesop’s fable of the Mouse and the Lion – even to the extent of the parallel between the lion as King of Beasts and Pharoah as the great and mighty ruler of Egypt. However, here there is also a sense of equality between the man and the mouse: so, when Mouse seeks out his fellow mice, he says, ‘the kind man who rescued me from the thorns needs our help’: the Pharaoh’s rank is irrelevant. And of course, the way the mice help is ingenious and could only be done by mice…

The long-snouted little mouse is an endearing creature and will appeal even more to young readers because they can hunt for him throughout the story, hiding behind pillars and pottery. In one evocative illustration, though, the mouse is large in the foreground whilst behind, moonlight shimmers across the desert and highlights the tiny figures of men working into the night to dig the enormous sphinx out of the sand.

It is interesting to note that the book’s author Karim Alrawi was born in Egypt and, having moved to Canada via England, he returned to Egypt in 2011 to take part in the pro-democracy uprising. Indeed, The Mouse Who Saved Egypt has a very democratic feel about it, despite its setting in a dynastic regime, due to the character of the mouse: and, of course, it can be read as a fable on a number of levels. For children, it is quite simply a book that will delight them, but also perhaps instil in them a desire for harmony and kindness in the world.

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6 Comments:

  1. I like how you have added some extra information about the author and the possible social interpretation of the text. Children are perceptive readers and can certainly pick up on the unimportance of someone’s status compared to their character.

    Thanks for sharing this delightful story set in Egypt.

  2. This looks like a lovely book! Thanks for sharing with #diversekidlit!

  3. I really appreciate the information on the author as well, it’s so helpful when assessing children’s books to know a bit about the author and their background, especially when the book features a cultural tradition I’m not as familiar with.

    • Yes, you make an important point – and certainly here, the author’s background leaves a trail in the book that makes it interesting for adults – in the way that good fables speak to adults and children in slightly different ways.

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