By: Lois Lowry
Illustrated By: Eric Rohmann
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books For Children
Publication Date: March 2011
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: April 2011
Hildegarde is the Mouse Mistress of Saint Bartholomew’s Church. This level-headed mouse has lived within this amazing building her whole life. She knows every route within the walls - through the sacristy, the narthex, the ladies’ room - even where to avoid the copper wiring and the furnace pipes - Hildegarde has the place mapped out, and she is extremely reverent about her home. She even leads the other mice in confession and choir every Sunday when the organist begins to play. She is the mouse in charge to make sure the other 200+ mice that fill the rooms keep to themselves, and don’t draw unwanted attention to their population…especially from the Altar Guild ladies. You see, when the Altar Guild ladies come in to do the flowers, they’re the ones who scream out Eek! And that could cause another ‘Great X’ to happen inside the church walls.
Lucretia is Hildegarde’s rival, who wants nothing more than for Hildegarde to make a mistake so she can become the Mouse Mistress. She’s even been campaigning behind Hildegarde’s back for the job.
Hildegarde is a little jumpy right now. Soon it will be October 4th - the Feast of Saint Francis - and all the congregation will be bringing in their animals for a blessing. Hildegarde is praying for a bright, sunshine filled day because, if it rains (God, forbid) those animals come inside…and there are cats galore.
Hildegarde is sleeping quietly when Roderick - a somewhat arrogant chap - nudges her to let her know that a new group of mouselets has just been born. Rushing to the closet, Hildegarde finds these icky pink children nestled in Father Murphy’s old mop, and she has to give a firm lecture to their mom, Millicent, about her continuous breeding.
In Father Murphy’s private office, Hildegarde calls a meeting. The hundreds of mice enter and take their places along the old bookshelves, trying their best to not gnaw on any of the Father’s books. Hildegarde explains to all about the Feast coming up, and tells them that they must do a better job in hiding themselves. There have been too many spotted and the ‘Great X’ could happen again.
Unfortunately, the mice have teenagers and, let’s face it, they are a group who just don’t listen. Soon Hildegarde gets the mice all together to try and find the page in the phone book that the Father uses to call in the ‘Great X’ people. They need to get together and eat the page with the phone number before it’s too late. Unfortunately, the mice look through all the ‘X’ pages and can’t find a thing (mice don’t know that extermination begins with an E).
When Hildegarde overhears the day that these brutal men are coming, she puts together a true ‘exodus’ to the outdoor world for the mice to save themselves. Being out in the cemetery and having to avoid owls and hawks is bad enough, but she also needs brave volunteers to get rid of the traps left behind by the ’killers.’ And, of course, when Feast day arrives - it’s raining like crazy. The brave Hildegarde must save her friends (and an enemy), and prove to the world that mice, too, should be among the blessed.
The illustrations in this book are absolutely fantastic, and the true emotions of this amazing writer are literally ‘felt’ by the reader. The plot is fun, sweet, charming, and the characters are truly unforgettable. Not a great surprise considering the author is a two-time Newberry Award Medalist, and the illustrator has a Caldecott Medal - a partnership that means a fantastic read for people of all ages!
Quill Says: The famous saying, ‘all creatures great and small,’ are words to live by, and Hildegard, the Mouse Mistress, teaches us some amazing lessons that we should never forget! This book is pure enjoyment!