Mrs. Mortifee's Mouse
Ted McGee is an associate professor of English at St. Jerome’s
College, University of Waterloo.
This fanciful story of a pest turned pet ends with grandmotherly Mrs.
Mortifee living harmoniously not only with the mouse but also with the
big cat she bought to rid the house of the little pest. The plot falls
neatly into seven parts: each day from Monday through Saturday of a
summer week, Mrs. Mortifee is either surprised by the winsome mouse or
outwitted in some scheme to get rid of it. The final page portrays the
events not of the Sunday (as one might expect), but rather of a day
several months later when the mouse, the lion, and Mrs. Mortifee gather
round the table for cookies and hot chocolate after making images of
themselves in snow.
Mrs. Mortifee is “a character,” thanks to Linda Hendry’s splendid
illustrations. She delineates with just the right touch of comic
exaggeration Mrs. Mortifee’s emotions, especially her mortification at
the appearances of the pesky mouse. Even more important, she fills out
the story’s context—the old-fashioned world of the late 1940s or
early 1950s—with a wealth of detail. Judging from the reactions of the
4- and 5-year-olds to whom I have read this story, it is all that action
in the illustrations, rather than the simple story, that makes this book
engaging and fun.