Once a Mouse…

ISBN: 0689713436
ISBN 13: 9780689713439
By: Marcia Brown

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Animals Caldecott Caldecott Medal Caldecott Winners Children Children's Childrens Picture Book Picture Books To Read

About this book

A hermit knows the magic to change a small mouse into a cat, a dog, and a majestic tiger -- and Marcia Brown's magical woodcuts bring this Indian fable to life with the mastery that won her her second Caldecott Medal.

Reader's Thoughts


** spoiler alert ** This story about pride and being true to one’s self comes with the taglines of “from Ancient India” and “fable cut in wood”. It begins with a hermit who is thinking about big and little when he meets a mouse that is in danger of being snatched up by a crow. Throughout the narrative, the hermit continuously saves the defenseless, humble mouse by using magic to turn him into bigger animals, until he is a large, proud tiger who flaunts his prowess to the other animals of the forest. This action upsets the hermit who reminds the tiger of what he used to be, which angers the tiger who, in turn, thinks about killing the hermit. The hermit reads the tiger’s mind and promptly changes the tiger back to the mouse he originally was and banishes him for his hubris. The mouse is never seen again, while the hermit goes back to thinking about big and little, which is exactly what the reader is left to consider. In a unique style, the sentences are not punctuated on the first page they appear and instead, go on to following pages where an interpretive illustration is located. This creates a somewhat suspenseful effect that will hopefully engage the audience during a read aloud. The illustrations are done in dark green, dull red and muted yellow with bolded lines, which provides the very intriguing woodcut effect. This book would be appropriate for ages 4-8. Once a Mouse… won the Caldecott Award in 1962.

Rebecca Hipps

Once a Mouse is a folk tale from ancient India. Marcia Brown illustrated her book as cuts of wood, bringing an authentic appeal to this story. As I read this book, I felt I had taken a journey through place and time, and was able to imagine the hermit and animals in the story. I appreciated the open nature of the book; the reader is left pondering with the hermit regarding the implications of "big and small." This allows the reader to independently decipher the author's intent and personally relate to the tale. Brown utilizes an interesting technique: she continues sentences across page turns, which keeps the reader engaged and also gives the book a true "story-telling" feel, appropriate considering the oral tradition from which the story originates. From beginning to end, Brown weaves a beautiful tale with words and pictures, preserving an ancient story.


I can definitely see why this book would be a Caldecott award winner. Once a Mouse is the story about a hermit who decides to help out a mouse who is getting ready to be attacked. The hermit magically turns the mouse into a cat. Later the cat gets threatened, so the hermit again changes him into something bigger. This continues few times until the mouse is a tiger. The tiger is not only not threatened by other animals, he is very boastful around them. He is also very ungrateful to the hermit for all that he has done for him. The tiger/mouse decides he is going to attact the hermit, but the hermit is not so sure about that. This is a great fable because it teaches some very valuable lessons about not being boastful and also being grateful for what others do to help you out. Obviously, the images in this book are going to be great since it is a Caldecott winner, but when you first look at them, you may not think they are all that. Then, you realize that they are wood carvings, and it makes them so much better. I think the pictures really help tell the story. They really show the emotions on the different animals and the hermit. I also feel that the wood carvings go with the story because Marcia Brown is making something greater out of what she is given kind of like the hermit is. He continues to make great things out of small things, while she is creating this amazing story out of a piece of wood. I would recommend this book to Kindergarten through third graders. I think these students would understand what the fable is trying to teach them. In fact a lesson I would do with the students is for them to write the moral at the end of this fable (something this fable is missing). It would be a great way for the teacher to understand if the students are comprehending the story and get the meaning of the lesson at the same time.


This tale from India tells the story of a magical hermit who, in order to protect a little mouse from danger, changes it into bigger and bigger animals--first a cat, then a dog, and eventually the mouse is transformed into a tiger. But the tiger is vain and has no respect for the hermit who has saved his life, and so the hermit teaches him a lesson.A quick read, and one that kids will say teaches us to be thankful for what we have and "don't think you're better than other people".


The woodcuts for this book are superior to anything else in the medium that I have seen. Considering the quality of Marcia Brown's artwork, I'm really not at all surprised that this book won the 1962 Caldecott Medal.Once a Mouse...tells the cautionary fable of a tiny, frightened mouse who comes across a philosopher/magician hermit pondering thoughts of big and little, while sitting in the forest. To protect the timid mouse from its natural foes the hermit turns it into a cat, and then proceeds to augment the creature's status in the food chain to guard it from each new predator, until that once fearful little mouse has become a powerful tiger. Pride overtakes the newly-morphed tiger, however, and it forgets that were it not for the grace of the hermit, it would still be an endangered mouse. When the hermit confronts the resentful tiger, the tiger begins to plot the man's downfall, but the hermit is perceptive and will not allow ingratitude to continue unpunished. The lessons taught by this story are subtle, leaving a lot of room for readers to draw their own various conclusions. I do believe that a thoughtful read of the book, however, will give readers something to consider for a while. I would give one and a half stars to Once a Mouse....

Melissa Dellman

This story had a wonderful message to share with students.. be thankful for what you have. The only problem I had with this book is that it was choppy and did not flow from one page to the next. The sentences were cut off about 3 times through pages before completing a thought. Other than that, I enjoyed the book!


** spoiler alert ** An Indian hermit uses his magic powers to transform little mouse into a cat,a dog, and a lion to save him from bigger predators in the forest. The lion-mouse grows boastful and ungrateful, though, and learns the importance of humility the hard way as he’s transformed back to a lowly mouse. Wood-cut illustrations of yellow, brown, and orange represent the animals distinctly. I like the moral of this story. Given the brevity of the text, I would use this book in a storytime with younger, preschool age children. It is a good book for teaching the importance of humility, as well as big and small concepts, so parents can read it one-on-one with children. Though the wood-cut illustrations are very stylistic, they are muted compared with picture books of today. It is a timeless book, though, and one that I would recommend.

Swear Ahmed

Once a Mouse is an awesome picture book that received a Caldecott Medal (1962). This books is for children ages 4-8. The magnificent images are made from are made from wood-cuts. I love the different shades of oranges and greens used on each page. I really like the feel that the paintings give story. They make it seem ancient somehow. This tale originates from an Indian story. It is about a mouse that is helped by a hermit several times. Eventually the mouse is changed into a tiger but then finds much arrogance in his new shape. The tiger forgets where he came from and what he used to be. Then seeing his arrogance the hermit changed the tiger back to mouse. That serves as an important thing to keep in mind. Where we start is what makes the journey more enjoyable. Children who read this book will learn that we should always be humble and remember where we came from. We can go back to that in the blink of an eye. Things change unexpectedly and we don't have control over much but we can control ourselves and what we put out into the world. I think this book wasn't the best book I have ever read but the images were quite compelling to me. The pictures drew me in, as I am an artist at heart. I would like to learn to paint that way. I would not be opposed to using this in working with children. I tend to like more stimulating language but this is a children's book and maybe its more about the pictures.

Debbie Reiber

Once A Mouse … by Marcia Brown is a fable or folktale from ancient India. It won The Caldecott Medal in 1962. The age group this book is intended for is nursery to primary. The book is about a hermit that saved a mouse from a crow, and every time another animal came to threaten the mouse, the hermit changed the mouse into a mightier animal until he was the mightiest tiger.I like the moral of the story and the illustrations fit the story well. I’m not usually fond of the muted colors, but it worked well for this story. There were a couple different shades of red and green with some black. I also liked the way the white was used to accent, highlight, and create some contrast within the illustration. The story itself had several morals; remember where you came from, be grateful for everything that is given to you, and the difference big and little can make. I would recommend this book to young readers because the story is interesting and the art work is intriguing. My preference in children’s illustrations is more colors and a little brighter, but for this book I think the illustrations complimented the story.

Sam Cooper

this is a story about a magical hermit who takes pitty upon a mouse who is about to be eaten by a raven. So the hermit uses his magic and turns the mouse into a cat. Then a dog comes along and triesto eat the cat. Then hermit uses his magic again and turns the cat into a larger dog. A tiger then comesalong to eat the dog. Finally the hermit turns the dog into the greatest tiger of all. The great tigerthen becomes cocky and threatens to eat all the other animals. The hermit decides the tiger has notlearned his lesson, and decides to turn the great tiger back into a mouse. The illustrations in this bookwere fantastic, and complimented the story very well. The drawings of the animals in particular were stunning.

Nicole Van Iwaarden

This story is of a mouse that was saved by Hermit, who turned the mouse into bigger animals to save it from predators. However, once Hermit turns the mouse into a tiger, the mouse becomes arrogant and ungrateful, which causes Hermit to turn the tiger back into a mouse. Also, the illustrations use color to emphasize mood throughout the story. Overall the story can be used in a classroom because it teaches that no good comes of arrogance and that taking someone who helps you for granted means said person will unlikely help you again.

Amy Clinton

This story is of a man who saw a little mouse about to be eaten, and fearful of the mouse's fate, tried to save him. The man (or the hermit as he is called) changed the mouse into larger creatures each time his life was in danger. Until, the little mouse was an ungrateful dangerous tiger. The man then changed him back after learning how the little mouse had changed internally as well as externally. This story teaches that we are the way we are for a reason, we should not change things or wish they be changed because we will not know what will happen. It can also be used to teach the food chain as you can see which animals were after the others.I enjoyed this book because it was a simple one to understand and I believe that it shows how people change their point of view as they change position.The images create a jungle theme to the book, which is appropriate. The use of darker natural colors allows the images to show a more African side to the story. This book will work good for kindergarten and first grade.

Diana V.

Main Characters: Old Hermit and a MousePoint of View: Third Person Setting: ForestLexile Level: 530 L (Early Upper Elementary) Genre: Multicultural Awards: Caldecott Award Plot: Marcia Brown retells a claimed Indian fable about a mouse, which is helped by a forest hermit with magical powers, in vigorous style and illustrates it in woodcuts. The Indian hermit magically transforms the mouse into a stout cat, a big dog, and finally a royal tiger. Nonetheless, when the tiger gets too proud and forgets its origins, the hermit turns it back into a mouse. This is fable is not only short, but also worth learning from and magical for young readers.Main Ideas: Character and Values Animals Recommended: I would not only recommend “Once A Mouse….” for a read-out-loud with younger children, but also for directed and/or independent reading with upper elementary students. Younger readers might be delighted with the mouse’s transformation, while a bit older students will read more meaning to the storyline. Therefore, this story can be the launch for discussing several character and value topics such as – the importance of knowing where you came from, gratitude, and humility. Personal Reaction: Reading “Once A Mouse…” for the first time was a magical adventure. I enjoyed reading this short fable. Additionally, I admired the illustrations because of their colors, style, and expressions. Since its storyline teaches many lessons, I see this book being used in a character and values unit with second or third graders. Satisfying Concluding Statement: Always keep in mind the Golden Rule.

Melissa McMaster

An old hermit sees a mouse in trouble and turns him into a bigger animal each time it is in danger. This process of the hermit saving this animal occurs again and again until the once little mouse becomes a large fierce tiger. However, the mouse forgets the deeds of the hermit, and he becomes very egotistical and full of himself. The hermit is angered that the tiger shows no appreciation toward him for having saved his life on more than one occasion. Because of this, the hermit turns the tiger back into a mouse as a way to punish him for not being more humble about his beginnings.Although I like the theme of this story, it was kind of awkward to read. The illustrations did a great job providing a visual to accompany the text, and I enjoyed the tribal style of the illustrations. However, the text spread over more than one page. You would have to turn the page to be able to read the other half of a sentence, and this made reading the story a little jumpy for me. But all in all I enjoyed this book!

David Korsak

This book starts out with a hermit and a mouse. The hermit adopts the mouse as a pet and feels sorry for it being a mouse, so the hermit transforms the mouse into a cat. The hermit does this two more times from a cat to a dog and a dog to an enormous tiger. The tiger then becomes ungrateful and has forgotten who he really was, a mouse. The tiger became disrespectful of other animals and acted as if every animal was under his control, he even threatened to kill the hermit. The hermit in the end finally decided to change the tiger back to his actual self, a mouse. The illustrations in this book are extremely detailed and have extraordinary colors. The colors reaffirm with what’s happening in the story. This story is different and weird, but I found this book to be very entertaining. I related to this story because I knew someone who changed physically and this made that person angry and mean towards others.

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