Today on Project Gutenberg #26

Today on Project Gutenberg we have…

Willie Mouse by Alta Tabor

This, as you probably expect from the title, is a children’s picture book. A Google search can’t tell me anything about what year it was published or any trivia on the author. I’m not even sure if the title is supposed to be Willie Mouse or Willie Mouse Goes on a Journey to Find the Moon. But I digress.

The story of Willie Mouse follows the same setup as something like Winnie-the-Pooh or Peter Rabbit, the whole “talking animals live in a forest and dress in quaint Victorian outfits” subgenre. The titular journey to find the moon comes about because “Willie Mouse had often heard his Ma and Pa say that the moon was made of green cheese, and one evening he thought he would see if he could find it.”

So he builds a rocketship in his basement, stuffs it full of crackers, flies it to the moon and meets a coin-operated robot with a nightstick who…wait, wait, no, that’s A Grand Day Out. Willie Mouse’s big idea for getting to the moon is to light a lantern, pack some dinner and just walk to the moon. So away he goes. His parents, for some unfathomable reason, do not stop him. Maybe they’re trying to Darwin Awards their own son and start over.

But everyone else Willie meets on his travels is happy to tell him what an idiot he is. Some just tell him that it’s impossible to reach the moon, while others take more issue with the whole green cheese thing. Then there’s Mr. Squirrel, who provides a particularly enlightening take on the situation:

Presently he came up to a wood, and looking up he saw Mr. Squirrel jumping from branch to branch.

“Good afternoon,” he said.

“You do seem high up. Surely you can tell me the way to the moon. It’s made of green cheese, you know.”

“I don’t think it’s made of green cheese; why shouldn’t it be made of nuts?”

“How ignorant everybody is,” said Willie Mouse to himself.

Eventually, however, Willie Mouse makes his fatal error, as protagonists in this sort of book are wont to do. In this case, it’s running afoul — or perhaps afowl, heh — of Mrs. Owl, who of course has “a special liking for little mice.” Mrs. Owl tells Willie that of course she can show him the way to get to the moon. Apparently hoping that he doesn’t know the difference between the Moon and an esophagus, she snatches him up and carries him off to her nest, where her hungry babies are waiting…

…Okay, I’m just gonna quote you the next two paragraphs verbatim about what happens next. Because you need to see how quickly this unfolds.

When Willie Mouse saw all the owlets with their beaks gaping open he began to be frightened, for he feared that Mrs. Owl was going to eat him all up. But he didn’t know that a good green elf, who lived in the trunk of the tree, was near at hand, and just as Mrs. Owl opened her beak the leaves rustled and there stood Mr. Elf, who jumped to the ground with Willie on his back.

When the good green elf had shown him the way home he thought he would ask him if the moon were really made of green cheese, but all of a sudden Mr. Elf disappeared, and Willie Mouse still thinks that one day he will find the moon and have enough cheese to last him all his life.

SO THAT HAPPENED. The world’s strangest deus ex machina came down to save this dumbass child from natural selection and then peaced out two seconds later without even giving us some kind of moral to make this whole thing worth our while. Willie Mouse has learned nothing. The reader now has an intimate understanding of the word “tedium.”

Is there any point to reading this? I’m gonna go ahead and say not really. It’s too simplistic to entertain anyone, except maybe very young children. The weird Gollum-looking elf showing up is funny due to how baffling it is, but that doesn’t happen until the very end. Even the pictures are just so-so.

But I suppose there are worse things to read, as the publishing company reminds us by advertising its edition of Little Black Sambo. So I guess if you have to choose between reading this and reading Little Black Sambo and book-burning isn’t an option…choose this? Though I’m not sure how that would be a situation you’d ever find yourself in in the year 2020 AD, barring a series of bad luck and even worse decisions.

And that’s what we found today on Project Gutenberg! See you next time!

— Dana

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