Shamed by a children’s book

(Originally posted on Tumblr in 2015)

Let’s start by saying that some might already shame me for how I came upon the book I’m about to discuss, “Library Mouse” by Daniel Kirk. The book was the prize in a kid’s meal from a fast food chain, wrapped in cellophane to avoid grease stains as it rode alongside my son’s chicken nuggets in a paper sack. Strike one.

The book itself is quite charming, it is about a little mouse named Sam who lives in the wall in the library and when all the patrons go home at night, he reads and reads and reads. He eventually decides to write a book, and when he is done he places it on the shelf. He then writes another, and another, and eventually encourages the children in the library to write their own books and share their stories. Great message for kids, no doubt. Follow your dreams, share your stories, make yourself heard, etc. No problems here.

The second time I read the book through, however, I felt a weight start to pinch down on my shoulders. When the librarian in the book asks Sam the author to let the children meet him – not knowing he is a mouse – he is scared. This is for obvious reasons that my adult brain can’t help but think about, especially while in the middle of trying to suspend all reality to read the book to my toddler. He simply pictures an adorable literate mouse sharing his gifts with the world, who wouldn’t want to meet that guy? I picture screaming kids, exterminators, other unpleasantries that someone might cast on vermin living off of food crumbs and holing up inside the walls of the local library.

But, beyond that, here is the line that really got me, “Sam could not understand why people thought writing was so hard, If only they would try, they might find out that writing was really lots of fun.”

And this is where the little bugger crossed the line. As anyone might see from my history of posts since I began blogging in 2003, when I am not employed to write, my personal writings shared are few and far between. At this particular point in my life this is largely because I am not working and instead raising a toddler. I am busy reading him books and making sure that some day he not only speaks, but also writes in full, well-formed sentences, instead of text-message shorthand riddled with emojis. I don’t have many fears as a parent, but I do fear a day when teens simply blurt out sounds to replace what used to resemble an old-fashioned dialogue.

So, in my head as I continue to read this book to my son, attempting to suspend all reality and not bristle at Sam’s off-handed barb about the ease of writing, I can’t help but craft an imaginary discourse with Sam, the magical author mouse, who churns out prose at an alarmingly speedy rate for an audience of adoring young fans.

“Well yes of course,” I would say to Sam, “I do think writing is fun and it does come (relatively) easy to me, but it would be even more easy if all I did during my waking hours was live in a library surrounded by books and hours of free time, eating the remnants of someone’s Starbucks oatmeal raisin cookie that had dropped behind the water cooler!” During this conversation, I may or may not have a baseball bat in my hand, for dramatic effect only of course.

“Instead, Sam, my waking hours consist of some reading and writing, approximately 12 minutes on most days, or until the book or notebook smacks me in the face as I pass out in bed for the night, whichever comes first, woven around preparing meals, airing out and socializing my son, washing laundry, buying groceries, and keeping up my home by … say, making sure I don’t have anyone like you living in my walls.” At this point in the exchange I might gently smack the head of the Louisville Slugger against my palm for additional emphasis.

I’ll admit I’ve reached a fuzzy point in my sanity, a point where friends may question why I am willing to publicly vent about an imaginary story book character. I’ll just say if this airing of grievances perhaps helps me to double down on my own efforts to out-write an imaginary mouse, it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

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