Once a mouse... : a fable cut in wood - from ancient India

by Marcia Brown

Paper Book, 1961



Call number




New York : Scribner, c1961.


As it changes from mouse, to cat, to dog, to tiger, a hermit's pet also becomes increasingly vain.

User reviews

LibraryThing member suzecate
Once Upon a Mouse won the 1961 Caldecott medal (awarded for art in picture books), and with its innovative wood cuts, it's easy to see why. The wood-cut art is well-suited to the Indian fable it decorates.

The fable follows an old hermit in the forest who one day saves a mouse from being a crow's
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prey. Now the mouse's protector, the hermit magically transforms the mouse into larger and larger creatures to avoid threats from other animals. Once a tiger, the former mouse forgets his humble origins and grows arrogant and himself threatening. There's a moral to the fable, of course, but children need not be old enough to understand it to appreciate this story of transformation. (ages 2-6)
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LibraryThing member ShannaThomp08
Once a Mouse is a great folktale that will teach you a valuable lessoon about being humble and grateful for people that are willing to help you when you least expect it. The amount of words it takes to teach these two life lessons amazes me. It just goes to show that you do not need many words to
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make a story meaningful.
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LibraryThing member jcole7
This story is a story from ancient India. the story is about a tiny mouse that befriends a hermit who could do magic.The hermit protects the mouse from predators by turning him into a larger animal that his predator. The mouse is eventually turned into a tiger and becomes to cocky and ungrateful of
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what the hermit has done for him. The hermit turns him back into a mouse and the mouse learns his lesson.

This book has a good moral. I enjoy books that teach a life lesson.

One classroom extension idea is that if I notice students in my class "putting on airs" or constantly bragging. I could read them this story to teach them it isn't ok to do that to their fellow peers. Also the story could be used to teach the difference between prey and predators.
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LibraryThing member kshielee
This story is a folktale from India. The character of the mouse changes a great deal throughout the story. He starts out as a scared mouse running for his life, but a hermit saves him by changing him into different animals. The hermit finally changes him into a tiger, but the mouse becomes very
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proud, so he changes him back into a mouse. The mouse runs away because he is scared again.
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LibraryThing member kaiserestates
The story tells of a hermit who finds a mouse that is going to be eaten by a crow. the hermit takes pity on the mouse and through the course of the story changes him to a cat, a dog, to a tiger and in the finally back to a mouse when he can't remember his roots
LibraryThing member jadepumpsthejams
Winner of the Caldecott Medal, this Indian fable follows the relationship between a hermit and a small mouse. The hermit saves the mouse many times by changing him into bigger and bigger predators, eventually a tiger. The tiger becomes prideful, and plans to kill the hermit when his pride it hurt.
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The hermit changes him back into a mouse. The story warns against pride and hubris.
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LibraryThing member tiburon
An ancient tale that originated in India about a mouse who is rescued by a kind and magical hermit who changes the animal from a mouse to a cat to a dog to a tiger, then back to a mouse when he gets "too big for his britches." Retold and illustrated in woodblock by Marcia Brown.
LibraryThing member kyoder06
Genre: Folk (fable)
Age Appropriateness: primary
Media: wood cut

This story is a fable but I think for our purposes it fits under the folk tale genre because a moral is learned at the end of the story. The lesson taught is about not becoming too prideful and to remember the good that has been done for
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us. I think the story is very good at making its point and the lesson is obvious making it easy to understand.
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LibraryThing member rvangent
This is a good example of a folk tale because it is a fable from India that teaches the readers about the importance of humility. This is exemplified when the hermit changes the mouse into a big tiger to protect himself, but the tiger became ungrateful and proud. Then the hermit changed the tiger
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back into a mouse. This is a good folk tale because it teaches about justice and morals in our children. It is written in a simple and fast-paced manner because it is a fable.
Media: pen and ink
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LibraryThing member KristinWhite
This book is good for children second or third grade. It teaches children not to be cocky like the mouse got when he was a tiger.
LibraryThing member swilson722
A simple fable from India about how a mouse is changed into more & more powerful animals (cat, dog, tiger) & becomes more & more vain. Suggested for k-3, beautiful illustrations--1962 Caldecott Award winner.
LibraryThing member annashapiro
When a hermit saves a little mouse from the claws of a hungry crow, he begins a vicious cycle, constantly rescuing the mouse and changing him into a bigger animal to escape each predator that comes along. He becomes a cat and is chased by a dog. He becomes a dog and is chased by a tiger. He becomes
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a tiger, and all of a sudden, has no more predators! He becomes cocky and proud, and the tiger forgets all the nice things that the hermit has done for him. He is ungrateful and plots to kill the hermit. But the hermit reads his mind and changes him back into a mouse, to remind him to be humble.
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LibraryThing member malissiaharrison
A Hermit saves a frightened mouse from a crow. To help the mouse, he uses his magic to turn him into a cat, then a dog and finally into a tiger. As a tiger he becomes so proud of himself that he forgets it was the Hermit who helped him out in the first place. To teach him a lesson the Hermit
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changes him back into a mouse.

I think this would be an excellent book to have in a classroom. Many children get to a stage when they notice differences in each other, and can start to think they are better than each other. This book offers a good lesson. We all have a place in this world and no one is better than the other.

An activity I would do is as a class discuss things we do or say that could hurt others feelings. If discussed as a group students might feel more comfortable discussing “what if” statements than actual occurrences.

Another activity would be to let the students pick an animal they would like to be and draw a picture of it, and be able to explain why they chose that animal.
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LibraryThing member Meg_Harrison
This is a simple circle story that encompasses the nature of pride! A little mouse, being chased by a cat is turned into a cat by a hermit, then a dog, and on and on until he walks around thinking he's invincible as a tiger. At the end he is turned back into a little mouse once more so that he will
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not be so vain.
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LibraryThing member EricaRodriguez
Once a Mouse…A Fable Cut in Wood, is an interpretation of a Hitopadesha tale from India. Hitopedasha tales were originally written down in Sanskrit at around 1200 C. E. and originated in India from an unknown author. The story is of a hermit who is contemplating about big and small things, when
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he is interrupted by the scurrying of a small mouse next to him. The mouse is almost eaten by a crow that swoops down to grab him, but the hermit intervenes and rescues the mouse. After the crow, the mouse encounters other animals who are all larger and attempt to eat him. The Hermit prevents this from happening by magically changing the mouse into a larger and larger animal. Once the mouse is the largest animal in the jungle, a royal tiger, he becomes pompous and lords over the other animals in the jungle. The hermit then advises the Tiger to not act in that manner because at one time he was merely a humble mouse. The Tiger feeling humiliated decides to eat the humble hermit, but the hermit reads his mind and changes him back into a little mouse before he can cause any harm. The mouse scurries back into the forest and disappears and the hermit sits down and begins to think about big and small things again. The book shows the cultural significance of religious men (hermits) in Indian culture as wise and powerful men. This story could be used in story time to help show both Indian cultural stories and art work; as well as, the moral that there will always be someone who is bigger or better than you. A person should be humble with the gifts they are given.
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LibraryThing member kcsutherland
One day a hermit sat thinking and suddenly he saw a mouse get snatched by a greedy crow, and the hermit saved the poor mouse. Then a greedy cat tried to snatch him, so the hermit changed the mouse into a stout cat. Then the stout cat was in danger and was changed into a big dog, then soon after
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that he changed into a tiger. The tiger tried to attack a dog and became greedy, so he was changed back into a poor mouse.
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LibraryThing member NataliaLucia
Personal Response: I felt that the hermit was too hard on the tiger, after all, he was the one who changed him from a mouse! The woodcut illustrations are amazing.
Curricular Connections: Kindergarden and First Graders could read this book in a unit about fables and folktales. Children could make up
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their own fables with different morals. This story also provides an opportunity to discuss the process of woodblock printing, which is how the illustrations were made. The teacher could provide fruit, potatoes, or even wood for children to carve and make prints from. The children could use tooth picks to carve images in the fruit or potatoes. To carve the wood, it would have to be softened so that children could carve it with paperclips or toothpicks, something that isn't dangerous.
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LibraryThing member mmuncy
A hermit saves a mouse from a crow and takes him to the hermit's hut. When a cat tries to get the mouse, the hermit turns the mouse into a cat. Then a dog frightens the cat and the hermit turns the cat into a dog. A tiger then tries to get the dog , so he turns the doy into a beautiful tiger. The
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tiger thinks he is really something so the hermit chides him. The tiger decides he doesn't like the hermit scolding him and so he will kill the hermit. The hermit can tell what the tiger is thinking and so turns the tiger into a mouse.

I like this. The illustrations were cut in wood and so were different from many I have read.

I would have the students try to figure out the moral of the story. This would be a good book to introduce that concept.
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LibraryThing member KristinSpecht
ELL can tell what's going on in the story w/out reading it. You could use this to teach them about pride and the effects of changing the natural order of life. Contrasting emotions can also be seen as he doesn't know what he should do with the mouse.

You can teach your students to give hints at the
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beginning of the book by a phrase that you can use again at the end of the story like starting and finishing with the phrase, "He sat their thinking about big and little..." You can teach them how to use font and font size to change the initial letter along with color changes to make the font interesting.
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LibraryThing member jkessluk
The art of wood cutting in this book is fantastic and really has a good way at showing the characters expressions. Unlike a lot of books to young readers, the moral is not straigt forward and for an assignment for young children it would be good to see if they get the concept of greed and making
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sure your thankful for what you have. The hermit saves a mouse and uses his magic to change the mouse into larger animals as predators keep coming for it. Eventually the mouse because a lion and wants to take revenge on the hermit.
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LibraryThing member jaykay2
Summary: This book is about a hermit who finds a mouse about to be snatched up by a crow. He saves the mouse. Whenever the mouse was in harm, the hermit changed the mouse into another animal to defend himself. After this goes on for awhile, the mouse is turned into a huge, royal tiger.The tiger
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then tries to kill a peacock when the hermit stops him and tells him he would be nothing if he the hermit haven't had turned him into a tiger. The tiger was ungrateful and was sent into the forest to be turned back into a mouse and was never seen again.

Personal reaction:
This book has a moral which is to never bite the hand that feeds you. The tiger didn't appreciate everything the hermit did for him and was then sent back because the hermit no longer wanted to help him. I enjoy this book because of the moral it teaches.

Extension ideas:
I would have the children point out the moral and write about how the tiger should of reacted to the hermit.
I would have the children make up their own story with the same moral.
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LibraryThing member juju1220
A hermit uses his magic to transform a weak mouse into a variety of other powerful animals until he finally turns it into a huge powerful tiger.After the hermit realizes that the tiger is using his power to overcome other animals in the forest and that he plans to murder the hermit he changes him
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back into the small mouse. Simple basic illustration used to demonstrate this tale. Woodcuts are used to display the artwork in this book. Great for all ages of students. Caldecott winne
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LibraryThing member mariah_westlake
Summary: A hermit uses his powers to change a mouse into a cat, then a dog, then a tiger to prevent him from being eaten. However, as a tiger, he quickly becomes selfish and self-absorbed, forgetting that the hermit was to thank for his fortune. The hermit decides to teach him a lesson in humility
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and turns him back into a helpless mouse.

Reflection: I would love to read and discuss this boo in class. Children begin to recognize eachothers differences as strenghts and weaknesses at a very early age and never stop. This book would be relevant to any age, children or adult, to teach the readers to be humble.

Class uses: 1) I would have the class pick an animal that they think they would want to be and give reasons- whether it be power, speed, or cuteness (etc.). The children would draw, write, and learn about these animals eventually ending in an active role play with their friends. 2) I would have the class make lists of ways to help out a friend or classmate if someone is picking on them. This would help to teach them to stick up for themselves, and not to pick on eachother.
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LibraryThing member missmichelle
Genre: This book is a great example of a folktake because it is a old fable taken from ancient India that has been retold for generations. In this folktale a hermit takes care of mouse and using his magic turns him into a tiger to protect himself. This story ends with a great lesson about coming to
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Characterization: This story has very flat characters mainly because the story was taken from oral tradition and the details have to be simple so they would not be lost during the retelling of the story. The main character is the hermit, who the reader finds to be very humble and who meditates on the things in this world that are big and small. The hermit stays static throughout the story as he uses his magic to change the mouse into something bigger only finding that the tiger needed to become humble again as a mouse.
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LibraryThing member audreydodge
This story has a good moral about being grateful and humble.
A hermit helps out a mouse, who in turn becomes ungrateful for his help. In the end the hermit sends the mouse away to fend for himself.


Original publication date


Physical description

25 cm


0684126621 / 9780684126623
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