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Mahalia Mouse Goes to College: Book and CD    by John Lithgow & Igor Oleynikov order for
Mahalia Mouse Goes to College
by John Lithgow
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

John Lithgow's picture books are always a rhythmic joy, so I opened up Mahalia Mouse Goes to College with anticipation - doubled by the fact that my own elder son goes to college this year. The book (which Lithgow dedicates to the Harvard College class of 2005) comes with a CD in which the author declaims his 'epic account on a miniature scale' in stirring accents.

Mahalia's story begins in a grey September, skies 'bursting with rain'. The mouse family's dad is away, their basement is flooded, and young Mahalia is sent out in search of sustenance. Igor Oleynikov's atmospheric drawings do full justice to the poor family's piteous state - and to small Mahalia's after she ends up trapped in a student's backpack ... 'Tormented by fears of a grim holocaust, / She pictured her home and her family lost!' What a plight!

Where does she end up? In a lecture hall. Mahalia embarks on a challenging course of study - and dreams of her mother egging her on to 'follow your heart!' Even discovery doesn't stop this indomitable pint-sized student, 'little but persistent', who sails on to her degree - and an emotional reunion. As always, Lithgow offers whimsical fun, with a few important messages for good measure, while Oleynikov's illustrations are simple splendid.

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