Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

Nice Mice

Posted on | February 11, 2010 | 16 Comments

Photo: makelessnoise

Photo: makelessnoise

If we haven’t much time in the library I’ll often select the books we take home simply by picking up all those that have been displayed prominently on the top shelves in the kids’ library (rather than having been filed away alphabetically). This approach often yields books I might not have found otherwise and On a Dark Dark Night By Simon Prescott is a case in point.

Prescott completed his MA in children’s book illustration just about 3 years ago and this is his second published book (Small Mouse Big City being his first book). He was shortlisted for Booktrust’s Best Emerging Illustrator last year (the eventual winner was Katie Cleminson with Box of Tricks, which regulars will know I reviewed here) and judging by On a Dark Dark Night it won’t be long until Prescott is not only shortlisted but actually wins his first award.

On a Dark Dark Night tells the story of a mouse on an adventure once the sun has set.

In a dark, dark wood…
there was a dark dark path.
Along the dark, dark path…
there was a dark, dark town.

With each line the tension builds – where is the mouse going? Will he make it? Will some terrible mishap befall him? Readers and listeners will end up holding their breath in nervous anticipation as they notice in the dark shadows all sorts of threats to the mouse as he tries to reach his destination.

The repetitive, rhythmic text ensures this books is great to read aloud (just like Funnybones by the Ahlbergs, although here the text and illustrations are somewhat darker, both literally and metaphorically). As each page is turned don’t be surprised if you and your kids move closer to the edge of your seats – the suspense is deliciously thrilling, and made all the more enjoyable by the surprising, delightful end to the tale.

dark_dark_night_inside

The illustrations are quite a revelation for me – colours are what tend to grab my attention when I’m looking at book illustrations (like in Here Comes Frankie, or Flyaway Katie, which I reviewed here and here) – but in On a Dark Dark Night Prescott has used a limited palatte – browns, black and muted yellow – and yet his illustrations are so rich that I surprised myself by falling in love with them.

To go with this lovely book we decided to make some edible mice. I loved the look of these treats, found via Bilbified, but cherries are out of season here so instead we decided to make bread mice that we could have for supper with a bit of cheese and soup.

Here’s our basic bread recipe (enough for two large loaves or 10 generously proportioned mice):

  • 500g strong plain white flour (I buy all my flour in bulk from Shipton Mill)
  • 500g wholemeal flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 dessert spoons dried yeast
  • Hot and cold water (see recipe)


  • 1. Mix 200ml of cold water with 100ml of just boiled water. Add 2 tsp of sugar and 2 dessert spoons of dried yeast. Mix then leave until froth is at least a couple of cm high, but preferably not so high as to be flowing over the top of your jug (which happens to me regularly).

    bread_mice1

    2. Mix your two types of flour together. Add your yeasty water and froth, plus another 400 ml of water (made up of about 250ml cold water, 150 hot water from the kettle – I don’t reboil the kettle for the earlier stage, so the water isn’t boiling).

    3. Bring flour and liquid together and knead. You may need to add a little extra flour to get the dough to a nice non sticky consistency. I don’t knead for very long – perhaps 5 minutes. It depends on what’s on the radio and what my kids are getting up to!

    bread_mice2

    4. Leave the dough to double or thereabout in size. Depending on whether my heating is on and whether it is summer or not, this may take between 45 minutes and a couple of hours.

    5. Knead the dough again for a few minutes, split into two and put into two 2lb greased and floured bread tins. Leave to rise for a second time – until the dough is domed above the rim of the tin (again, depending on ambient temperature this may take between 45 mins and a couple of hours).

    6. Bake your bread for 20 minutes in an oven preheated to 220 C. Turn the oven down after 20 minutes to 200 C and bake your bread for another 15 minutes. Remove bread from tins and knock the base of each loaf – if it sounds hollow all is well, otherwise give the loaves another couple of minutes in the over.

    7. Try to wait until the loaves are cool before slicing and buttering thickly…. yum yum yum!

    For the mice we did as above up to stage 5. Instead of putting the bread into tins we shaped it into mice with tales and left the dough to prove a second time. Just before putting the bread in the over we added various nuts to create eyes, noses and ears, and spaghetti for whiskers. The mice only needed about 20 mins at 220 C and then they were ready.

    bread_mice3
    bread_mice4

    I think these mice might have a bit of a complex as they look like they might have some feline DNA in them, but whatever their genetics, they were delicious for supper!

    bread_mice5
    dark_dark_night_frontcover




    On a Dark Dark Night: ** (2 stars)

    Here’s today’s playlist!

  • Dancing in the dark by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
  • Deep in the Dark by Betsy Rose
  • Mouse Jamboree by Mary Kaye


  • Some other mice which have caught our eye include:

  • This adorable tea cup mouse from Fun in the Making
  • This cute, sleepy mouse in bed from Molly Chicken
  • This mouse glove puppet from make-baby-stuff.com – you could even make two as a pair of novelty gloves!


  • What are your favourite kids’ books about night time or about mice?

    stArtToday’s post is part of stART, hosted by A Mommy’s Adventures.
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    Comments

    16 Responses to “Nice Mice”

    1. Kristine
      February 11th, 2010 @ 12:10 pm

      What a great ‘edible playdough’, I had thought of doing something similar with a soft pretzel dough but never found the time. We haven’t made bread for a long time. I think my now that my daughter is a little older she’d be quite amazed to watch the yeast grow.
      Favourite night book would be “Bilby Moon” Bilby notices each night that more and more of the moon is missing and goes about asking other nocturnal desert animals to help him look for it.

    2. Mama to 3 Blessings - Our Homeschool Blog
      February 11th, 2010 @ 2:12 pm

      oh my goodness how cute is that! I love this idea! Yummy!

    3. Michelle
      February 11th, 2010 @ 4:36 pm

      These look so cute, what a great project to go along with the book you read. Thank you for linking up and sharing your ideas!

    4. Wonder Mom
      February 11th, 2010 @ 4:37 pm

      Those aren’t mice- they are rats from the planet Krypton- hilariously yummy fun!

      (Also, I do enjoy how you pick out library books- I am glad to know I am not alone in my library science skills!)

    5. vanessa @ silly eagle books
      February 11th, 2010 @ 4:38 pm

      I’m going to add this one to my list! I love those bread mice! So cute and I bet they were delicious. :)

    6. Almost Unschoolers
      February 11th, 2010 @ 9:55 pm

      Great review – and wonderful project – your mice/cats really turned out beautifully.

    7. Janelle @ Brimful Curiosities
      February 12th, 2010 @ 4:03 am

      Those muted colors do look intriguing and a little spooky.

    8. Trudie
      February 12th, 2010 @ 1:35 pm

      Love the idea of incorporating baking into the story, we must try that!

    9. The1stdaughter
      February 12th, 2010 @ 6:02 pm

      What an adorable site you have! I love it! And this activity looks like it was so much fun. I’m definitely coming back for more, thank you!

    10. Victoria
      February 13th, 2010 @ 3:38 pm

      We love this book and the children quote it to each other in spooky voices then run round the house shrieking. Thank you so much for your link and the lovely comment on my blog. I’ve been planning some book reviews of childrens books set in the places we are visiting, if you’ve got any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

    11. Melanie
      February 13th, 2010 @ 6:40 pm

      LOVE the bread mice! We read a bunch of mice books and did a mouse project too!!

    12. Zoe
      February 14th, 2010 @ 8:55 am

      I just found these adorable mice – very similar in construction to the ones I had originally wanted to make with cherries, but instead with Hershey’s Kisses (although over here, Hershey’s kisses might harder to get than out of season cherries!)
      http://floralshowers.com/holidays/valentines-day/mice/

    13. Grandma
      February 14th, 2010 @ 12:11 pm

      Valerie has been showing me your blog and I think you are amazing in what you are doing with the two girls and what a wonderful childhood they are obviously having! It’s lovely looking at the photos of the girls too.
      Lots of love from Grandma

    14. Zoe
      February 14th, 2010 @ 12:13 pm

      My favourite comment ever! Lovely to see you here Grandma :-)
      xxxx

    15. Sheela
      February 17th, 2010 @ 3:24 pm

      Oh, On A Dark Dark Night looks interesting… my daughter’s recent favorite has been Snowmen At Night – possibly because it is Winter now :) And, love the edible mice! In Summers we make Strawberry Mice for snack (licorice lace for tail, sliced almonds for ears etc.)

    16. Carrie, Reading My Library
      February 20th, 2010 @ 6:42 am

      Oh. My. Goodness.

      AWESOME idea!!!!!!!!!! I know a little boy who would absolutely LOVE this!

      *Making furious mental notes*

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