The Mouse and His Child

I’ve just finished reading The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban. When I was little I watched the animated movie many times. There’s a scene in the cartoon where a rat beats an old wind-up donkey to death and, unsurprisingly,  it always stayed with me. I saw the book at a book-fair and picked it up for $2, for old times sake really.

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It was a brilliant book. While I recognised a lot of scenes from the movie (including the scene with the donkey) there was so much more to it. Even knowing how it would end, I couldn’t stop reading about the toy mice’s journey from the toy-store to the cruel word and their quest to become self-winding and autonomous.

And I would never have picked it up if not for the book-fair and a bit of childhood nostalgia.

We tend to be attracted to what’s shiny and new but old stories have so much to offer. The Mouse and His Child was first published in 1967 but it’s themes are timeless. The writing style of older books is very different to modern style, often with much more description and author intrusion, but they’re often beautiful and poetic because of an author’s artistic license.

If you get a chance, keep an eye out for The Mouse and His Child and in the mean time blow the dust off some older stories for a chance of pace.

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The Balancing Act

We all have different pulls on our time. For me, I have two children (aged 4 and 6), a husband (although he’s pretty self-sufficient it’s nice to actually spend time with him), a writing career that I’m trying to get started, family, friends, neighbours, chores, pets, hobbies, a ‘to-read’ pile. You might have all these and more. The fact is, we all need to balance our lives otherwise we end up overwhelmed and under-satisfied.

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Can you help me?

I’m currently doing a rewrite on Child of War, the manuscript I’ve been trying to find a good home for. After rejection number four (or is it five?) and some reading to improve my skills (may I suggest The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke) I decided to put my current work in progress away for a bit and do some tweaking on my ‘finished’ manuscript.

With that as background, I’m looking for your comments. I’ve copied the first 200 words below and I would be grateful if you would read them both and let me know which (if any) you prefer and why.

Be brutal (but constructive). I’m keen to know what you think.

1)

Hunger slapped Jedda awake, clawing at his insides. His eyes snapped open, and he sat up. Nothing ruined a good sleep like the knife of hunger twisting in your stomach.

Pale yellow light sliced through a gap between the thin floral curtains, and caught in the dusty cobwebs that looped down from the corners of the room. There was a cat-shaped damp patch on the wall behind Jedda’s bed and he gave it a friendly pat, “Morning Flossy.”

Jedda stretched, pushing the tips of his toes out from the end of his bed, and swung his legs over the side. Cain’s bed was already empty, the thin covers pulled up over his pillow, his sketch pad and nub of pencil resting on the corner of the narrow set of drawers the divided their beds. Jedda stood up and shoved the edges of his blanket onto the mattress. He dragged a pair of jeans and a t-shirt out from under the bed, gave them a quick sniff, and pulled them on. With a yawn he headed for the kitchen.

Mum was standing at the sink, steam rising from the water and condensing in the curls of hair around her face, her cheeks flushed pink from the heat. She was scrubbing a cast iron pan and the water slapped and gurgled in the basin. She glanced at Jedda with brown eyes that matched his own.

2)

Jedda was going to die. He knew it. His heart, smashing against his ribs like it wanted to break out from his chest, knew it. Even his fingers, curled around a rough skinned branch,  stiff-jointed and burning, knew it. He was going to die at seventeen, and a virgin, and when he fell to his death it would be all Cain’s fault.

He edged his foot upwards, searching with his toes for another branch that he could use to lift himself higher. The slick, worn, sole of his sneaker slid on the damp bark. A shower of pine needles pattered over his hair and fell down the back of his coat collar where they bit at his skin. He hugged himself closer to the tree trunk and tried not to look down.

“Jesus Jedda. Could you hurry up?”

Jedda gritted his teeth. “I can’t find a foothold.”

“Just a little bit higher. Keep going…keep going. There. Can you feel it?”

Jedda’s foot connected with the stump on a broken branch. He wriggled his foot forward until it poked into the arch of his foot and his knee was almost in his chest. He bounced, once, twice, on his other foot, sending another fall of pine needles to the floor, and pushed up with his other leg. His chest scraped against the tree, sweat pasted his fringe to his forehead. With a final grunt he was standing on the stump, his other leg dangling free.

So. Which is it? 1 or 2? And why?