Toe Shoe Mouse

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Toe Shoe Mouse Book Poster Image
Mouse makes a ballerina his friend in charming tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows the ballet setting of a theater, dressing room, and costume shop. Shows the ballerina doing some ballet moves and the shoes she dances in: toe shoes. Indicates that the French ballet term "tendu" has something to do with stretching. 

Positive Messages

Implied message to keep an open mind when making friends -- you could end up liking someone very different from you. Also, a subtle message to show kindness and give gifts with an open heart, not expecting anything in return. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tendu the mouse is curious, kind, and generous. Celeste the ballet dancer is sweet, joyful, grateful, a good listener who takes an interest  in her new friend (asking, "Why did you run away?"), open-minded, open-hearted, and protective of Tendu. Celeste is also a good role model for practicing hard to be the best at what she does. 

Violence & Scariness

Some scary moments when rats chase Tendu or the theater custodian tries to sweep him away with a broom -- one in a long shot, once in a close up. Just focusing on the man's shoes and a small portion of the broom relative to Tendu's small size is menacing. Likewise, just seeing a rat's long nose poking through a hole is enough to scare Tendu -- and the reader!

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Jan Carr's Toe Shoe Mouse is a sweet, adventurous story narrated by the mouse. He escapes from a hungry-looking cat by dashing into a theater, where he finds a ballerina's dressing room, hides in her toe shoe, falls asleep, then wakes to begin building a warm friendship with her. The two leave tiny gifts for each other in between rehearsals, performances, and the mouse's daring escapes from mean-looking rats and the theater custodian's broom. There's suspense and action for adventure lovers and puffy pink costumes for ballet fans. Great for read aloud. Note: Jan Carr writes book reviews for Common Sense Media. 

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What's the story?

A cute little mouse escapes some mean-looking street rats by jumping through a hole into a grand theater during a ballet rehearsal. He gets cozy in a plush velvet seat before the performance, when a ticket holder comes to claim his seat. He dashes upstairs and finds a cozy, safe spot in a ballerina's dressing room -- in her pink satin toe shoe -- and falls asleep. When he wakes, the ballerina, Celeste by name, is stretching her leg high in the air. He goes to look for some tidbits of food and brings some back for Celeste, then brings her braid and ribbon from the costumer's work table. She finally spies him and leaves him a pink cookie shaped like a mouse, saying, "Thank you for all the presents." She names him Tendu after the ballet move (meaning "stretched" in French). "But," but the narrator mouse tells readers, "you can call me Stretch."

Is it any good?

TOE SHOE MOUSE is a charming tale of a developing human-mouse friendship where the mouse takes the initiative and the human is very open to getting to know her little friend. There's also lots of action as the mouse runs from a cat, rats, and a custodian with his broom. Jennifer A. Bell's adorable illustrations capture every emotion on both friends' faces -- the scared and resourceful mouse, and the sweet, dedicated ballerina who's happy to make Tendu her pet -- and dance with him.

This is a fresh take on a ballet book and a mouse adventure story -- sure to engage tiny dancers and mouse fans alike. The mouse's gentle, semi-formal narration makes it easy to connect with the characters. And Bell's pencil and digitally rendered illustrations in a rose and teal palette, nicely varied from long shots to close-ups, capture the danger and delicacy of the budding friendship. A fun story to read aloud. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about mouse stories. Why do you think they're so popular? What's fun about a tiny hero? Can you think of some others you've read? 

  • What's looks fun about ballet? Have you taken ballet lessons? Does it seem hard or fun? Or both? 

  • How does the artist show that the mouse is scared or running fast? Try drawing a picture of a mouse running away from a rat or a man with a broom.

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