Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mouse in the Manger: Mortimer's Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson

In a big house lived a wee mouse named Mortimer. He dwelled in a dark hole under the stairs.

Nobody ever noticed little Mortimer, and Mortimer liked it that way. But he didn't like his hole.

"Too cold. Too cramped. Too creepy," squeaked Mortimer.

So Mort sets forth to find more suitable accommodations for himself. Dodging mom and two kids by house-hunting at night, the little mouse spies just what he's looking for--a little house just his size on a table in the living room.

Bouncing up the branches of a conveniently placed Christmas tree, Mortimer is delighted with his find.

"Perfect! Not cold. Not cramped. Not creepy. COZY!

But--who are you?" Mortimer had never seen people so small... or such strange animals, either!

Mortimer soon sees that the little people and animals in the creche are not real. Inside the little shelter he spots a tiny straw-filled manger just his size, "Out you go!" says the the little mouse as he sets about tugging and lugging and rolling the little statue of a sleeping baby and some grown-up figures out of the building. Soon Mortimer is curled up, sleeping warmly in his new bed.

But alas! Each day as Mort scurries around to find crumbs of cookies and fruitcake, the children of the house set up the statues back in Mortimer's new house. Night after night he is forced to tug the little people outside to make his bed in the tiny manger. "And stay out!" he commands them sternly.

Then one day Mortimer overhears the family gathered around the tree and creche, reading from a story in a big book, and the story he hears is wondrous.

"And there was no room for them in the inn," the big man read.

Then Mortimer heard about a baby. A baby who was born in a stable and had no real bed but slept in a wooden manger. A baby born to save the world!

"There was no room for you in the inn, but I know where there is room," Mortimer said.

That night Mortimer lovingly replaces all the figures in the creche, especially the smiling baby in the manger, happy to see that he looks warm and cozy there. Then he scurries back to his old home in the cold, cramped, and creepy hole under the stairs. As he curls up, he whispers a wish. "Jesus... perhaps you could bring me a home."

And the next night there is a new and wonderful little house in a special place on the table near the tree--a house, built of delicious-smelling gingerbread and trimmed with candy canes and marshmallows--warm and cozy and tasty--and just his size!

Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman, who have given us the delightful picture books in the Bear Snores On series, have created a new character in their lovely Mortimer's Christmas Manger, a gentle story of the Christmas message seen from the viewpoint of the smallest creature in the house.

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