Fri 27 Nov 2009
With Friday being the busiest shopping day of the year, I thought it was a great time to feature my favorite Christmas book — Christmas Mouseling by Wisconsin author Dori Chaconas.
This picture book tells a wonderful story of a mother mouse who has a baby during a winter storm. As she looks for a warm, safe nest, she meets several other animals on their way to visit another special baby born that night.
None of those animals’ homes are quite right for mother mouse and her new baby, so she decides to follow her friends and ends up in a warm cozy stable.
Christmas Mouseling (Viking, 2005) holds a special place in Dori’s heart. Here, she shares how it came to be:
How did you get the idea for Christmas Mouseling?
Ever since I learned that a baby mouse was called a pinkie, I wanted to write a story about one. And because baby toes are pinkies, too, I thought it might be interesting if the two different pinkies came together. And when I wanted to write a Christmas book, the three things all fell into place.
Did you plan for it to be a trade book? Or did you originally think it would go to a Christian publishing house?
Because the mouse ends up at the nativity scene, my first thought was that it would stand a better chance if I tried a Christian publisher. But at the time, I was working with Melanie Cecka at Viking on other books, so I decided to let her see it first. She bought it.
How long did it take to write?
Most of my stories take months, or longer. I have to see the whole thing in my head before I start putting it on paper. Once I get a first draft done, I’m obsessed with rewriting and refining, letting everything else around me slide. After sending the story to Melanie, she responded that she liked it, but the idea of a pink, naked mouse gave her the creeps, especially when that grub-like creature was snuggled in with baby toes. So more revisions were needed to grow fur on that mouse. And a new title. What started as The Winter Pinky became The Christmas Mouseling.
The illustrations are especially lovely. How did they compare to what was in your head?
The finished illustrations are always better than what I envision. Illustrators are savvy and talented, and always add so much more to a story. Susan Kathleen Hartung even bought a pet mouse to use as a model. That’s dedication. (If you want to see other books illustrated by Susan, visit this site.)
What kind of a response has it gotten?
A good response, from the feedback I get. I guess if you write a book about babies, mother love, Christmas, struggle, and then safety, you can’t go wrong.
Several of your books feature mice. Was that something you planned, or just a coincidence?
I really do like mice! Well, the fictional kind anyway. They remind me of children. Children are small. Mice are small. I think kids can relate to mice, so it seems like a natural pairing.
What are your favorite children’s books to give as holiday presents?
A lot of my friends are amazing writers. I always buy their books, especially those of our Wisconsin writers. It would be impossible to list them all. I buy a lot of books! Sometimes it’s hard to give them away as gifts. But I have to say that Marsha Hayles’ The Feathered Crown is probably one of my favorite Christmas books. It’s about mother birds that journey from around the world to make a feathered nest for the baby Jesus. Marsha’s words are amazingly beautiful.
What are your next books coming out?
The sixth Cork and Fuzz EZ-to-read book, called The Babysitters, will be out in the spring, with Viking. Then in the fall, Candlewick is publishing a story called Don’t Slam the Door. The flap copy reads: “A slamming door may not seem like a big deal, but in this hilarious story of cause-and-effect, it can have far-reaching consequences, including a limping Pa, a bee-stung bear, and a house plunged into chaos!”
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a new feature for my Web site and have called it Nose-to-Nose. The idea is to have Cork and Fuzz, who are two of my book characters, interview other picture book characters. I plan on keeping the interviews short, and hopefully, funny, and post on a regular basis. It’s given me a lot of laughs, so far, and a chance to connect with writer friends. You can find Nose-to-Nose on my Web site at www.dorichaconas.com.
Dori’s book is the perfect Christmas present for new parents maybe with some of Dori’s many other picture books. She even has two other Christmas stories:
- That Blessed Christmas Night (Abingdon Press, 2004)
- When Cows Come Home For Christmas (Albert Whitman & Company, 2008)