CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 2 . . . . September 17, 2004
The story of the feline Mr. Maxwell and his talking entrée with impeccable manners begins with the illustrations on the copyright and title pages: Mr. Maxwell is walking to the Paw and Claw restaurant, an eatery he frequents daily. On this particular occasion, Mr. Maxwell is celebrating his promotion to Vice Manager of Efficiency Control. The waiter is surprised when Mr. Maxwell requests a menu and places an order that departs from his regular lunch selection. As well as a mixed green salad, Mr. Maxwell orders raw mouse for his entrée.
The manipulative mouse continues conversing with Mr. Maxwell, delaying its consumption. The rodent flatters Mr. Maxwell, asks him to say a prayer before eating, and congratulates Mr. Maxwell on his promotion. Mr. Maxwell reluctantly agrees to let the crafty mouse say a prayer and at the conclusion of the lengthy prayer, Clyde, the waiter inquires of Mr. Maxwell's state. Mr. Maxwell, who never drinks wine with lunch, decides to indulge, and guess who offers advice on the type of wine he should order? Mr. Maxwell now seems hesitant to eat the rodent, and once the wine arrives and Mr. Maxwell consumes it in one gulp, the mouse suggests that Mr. Maxwell wear a blindfold to ease the unpleasantness of the impeding "deed." The swishing tail of blindfolded and nervous Mr. Maxwell is grabbed by the scheming mouse and placed upon the rye bread. The ultimate insult to Mr. Maxwell's dignity comes when he thanks the mouse for being patient with him! On the count of three, Mr. Maxwell plunges his utensils into the end of his very own tail! The feline's howl resonates three blocks away, and, during the mayhem that follows from patrons being knocked off their chairs and waiters dropping food, no one notices Mr. Maxwell's entrée scamper to the pantry and release all the mice. Mr. Maxwell's mouse gains a reputation for his daring feat and is subsequently reported to be involved in other escapes. As Mr. Maxwell recovers in the hospital, he receives an apologetic note from his rodent friend who wishes him all the best!
The fate of the mouse is easily predicted from the illustration on the dust jacket and cover. Indeed, the look of insouciance on the rodent's face as he reclines on the rye bread communicates his superior status in this cat and mouse game. However, it is intriguing and entertaining to follow the entrée's scheme to freedom. Observant readers will note the foreshadowing of the state of Mr. Maxwell's tail in the endpapers' illustration the statue of the cat on the horse. The same feline statue is depicted on the copyright page but without a bandage on its rear appendage. The rich illustrations of the attire of the cats, the style of the vehicles, as well as the exterior and interior of the buildings creates a 1920-1930 Chicago atmosphere to the story. Overall, a delightful David and Goliath story by Frank and Devin Asch.
Sylvia Pantaleo is an Associate Professor of Language Arts in the Faculty of Education, the University of Victoria, in Victoria, BC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.