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.