A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
AUGUST 5:

  • It’s the birth date of Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893), The Necklace, When Chickens Grow Teeth, Conrad Aiken (1889-1973), A Little Who’s Zoo of Mild Animals, Maud Petersham (1889-1971), The Rooster Crows, and Robert Bright (1902-1988), Georgie.
  • In 1620, The Mayflower departs from Southampton, England, on its first attempt to reach North America. Read The Mayflower and the Pilgrims’ New World by Nathaniel Philbrick.
  • The cornerstone for the Statue of Liberty is laid on Bedloe’s Island (now Liberty Island) on this day in 1884. Read The Story of the Statue of Liberty by Betsy and Giulio Maestro.
  • Cleveland, Ohio, is the home of the first electric traffic light, installed in 1914. Read Red Light, Green Light by Anastasia Suen, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max.
  • It’s Braham Pie Day, celebrated in Braham, Minnesota, known as the homemade pie capital of Minnesota. Read Enemy Pie by Derek Munson, illustrated by Tara Calahan King, Piggie Pie! by Margie Palatini, illustrated by Howard Fine, and Ugly Pie by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Heather Solomon.

Around this time of year the Norway Cup takes place, and more than fourteen hundred international youth soccer teams traveled from different countries to compete.

Well, our book of the day doesn’t have much to do with soccer. But it begins when Nils, one of the book’s three heroes, has to be fetched from Norway for a great quest. A Norwegian poet is being kept prisoner in the dreadful Black Tower, and Nils is summoned to help because he speaks the language. And, oh yes, I forgot to mention that although Nils is a true Norwegian, proud of his country and its heritage, he also happens to be a mouse, just like all the other main characters in Margery Sharp’s fabulously funny tale of great adventure and derring-do, The Rescuers.

According to the book, mice have always been the boon companions of prisoners—sharing their space and scant provisions and providing them with company. When the mice Prisoners’ Aid Society meets to plan the rescue of the poet, they first enlist the aid of Miss Bianca. She’s a privileged, pampered mouse who lives in a cage with a Pagoda. But she travels with her boy, and he happens to be heading to Norway. Since a Norwegian-speaking mouse must enter the Black Castle to talk to the prisoner, Miss Bianca agrees to find one and that’s when Nils enters the story.

If this seems a bit far-fetched, it all makes perfect sense as the plot plays out. Nils, Miss Bianca, and Miss Bianca’s love interest Bernard set out for the Black Castle to free the poet and bring him home alive. How they outsmart the jailer, his evil cat Mamelouk, and all the people in prison makes for an exciting tale. Readers watch Miss Bianca change from a pampered princess into a resourceful and daring espionage agent. For those who fall under her spell and are captivated by her charm, eight more volumes were published during author Margery Sharp’s lifetime.

Unfortunately, The Rescuers had gone out of print. But I am happy to report that this gem has just been republished by New York Review of Books—they have done some pretty spectacular rescue missions themselves over the last decade. If you don’t collect their reissues, you are not only missing out on some of the best writing for children but also some of the most beautifully produced volumes of our time, distinguished by their binding and paper. In The Rescuers readers get the added treat of Garth Williams’s illustrations drawn at the height of his craft. During the 1950s and early 60s Williams lent his genius to the reissue of Wilder’s The Little House books, Charlotte’s Web, The Cricket in Times Square, and The Rescuers. His details of the cozy homes that Miss Bianca fashions—one using Wrigley chewing gum wrappers for wallpaper—are infinitely satisfying.

Whether you enjoy the details of the art, or those in the text, The Rescuers makes a wonderful book to pick any day of the year.

Here’s a passage from The Rescuers:

 

 

Mamelouk was by now thoroughly confused. He didn’t want to spoil his appetite for the feast, he didn’t want to let Nils and Bernard go, and Miss Bianca had somehow made it seem that if he killed and saved them up, he would be regarded as a goldfish! For a cat with two plump mice under his paw, the situation was really extraordinary.

The unvertainty in his mind began to transfer itself to his muscles. Very slightly, the grip of his paw slackened. Bernard and Nils looked at each other, hardly daring to hope.

“Or, if I might make a suggestion,” added Miss Bianca impulsively, “do, as you’re dining out, pay a little attention to your coat. You might begin with your back.”

“What’s wrong with my back?” growled Mamelouk—confused afresh by this sudden change of subject.

“Just look!” said Miss Bianca.

Vain Mamelouk looked. Actually, there was nothing wrong with his back coat at all, he’d groomed himself rather specially—but he couldn’t help looking.

Over his shoulder.

Away from the mice.

Now!” shrieked Miss Bianca.

With one instant’s terrific effort Nils and Bernard wrenched themselves free and streaked like lightning for the hole. Miss Bianca skimmed in just ahead of them, and Mamelouk was left fuming outside…

 

 

 

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Originally posted August 5, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Adventure, Animals, Humor, Mice
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for The Rescuers
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COMMENTS

  1. suzi w. says:

    Oh I love Miss Bianca! Don’t think I’ve ever read this one, but I do remember fondly one called Miss Bianca in the Salt Mines. Funny how the memory of a title takes you back to the place you read it: on a bed in a beach house at the beach in Honduras. (I lived in Honduras for a while as a girl.) The name of the beach was Tela, and it was the vacation where I came up with the idea of making my own magazine, called General Magazine, based on Good Housekeeping. (I read my mother’s issues from cover to cover.) Miss Bianca and her derrings-do thrilled me…I don’t know if I read any others, but I’m sure I did, I was that sort of child.

    You have some sort of magic, Anita, for poking out memories. I think at some point I’ll have to come back and find all the memories I’ve put in your comments box and expand on them. For now, I’ll just say, thanks! (And will have to find a copy of the Rescuers!)

  2. I remember my grandmother reading this story to us girls but I have not seen a copy since childhood and now i know why…will get this reprint now! Thank you for yet another great alert as well as memory!

  3. Kathryn says:

    Just two days ago I mentioned this book to a 19-year-old friend (just 10 years younger than me), and she had no idea what I was talking about. I was heartbroken! So glad to see it will be reprinted so a new generation of book lovers can discover it all over again.

  4. Every day, I say a little prayer of thanksgiving for the New York Review of Books and the many wonderful titles they have rescued from oblivion and brought to the hands of children everywhere. We have ten of their volumes in different places in the house, all read and re-read by my children and husband and I. It looks like we will soon have eleven – I adored The Rescuers as a child. So excited to have my kids adore it too!

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