It’s fun to read books about being on stage, and you can learn a lot by reading. One of my favorite books about the stage isn’t about kids on stage, or even grown-ups on stage — it’s about MICE on stage.
One of the people who wrote the book is an actress. Once, when she was appearing in a play on Broadway in New York, someone saw a mouse in the wardrobe department. Someone said, “Oh, there are always mice in theatres. There are probably lots of them in the basement.” The actress thought, “I wonder if they put on their own shows down there?” That got her imagination going, and she and her daughter then wrote the book, The Great American Mousical.
Title: The Great American Mousical
Authors: Julie Andrews Edwards and Emma Walton Hamilton
Illustrator: Tony Walton
Publisher: New York: HarperCollins, 2006
Genre: Middle Grade fiction
Audience Age: 8 and up
Synopsis: In one special part of New York City, an area called Broadway, there are theatres, theatres, and more theatres with every imaginable kind of play being performed. Lights twinkle and glisten as brightly as the stars that shine on the stages of the theatres. This is as true in real life as it is in this book.
Now, imagine… In the depths of the basement below one of the theatres, the Sovereign, there is a troupe of theatre mice preparing for a special New Year’s gala benefit performance. A crashing noise shakes the building and sends them scurrying up to the street, where they see a huge wrecking ball ready to destroy the Sovereign – and their own theatre beneath it!
As if that weren’t enough to threaten their gala, the star of the mouse musical (the mousical!) gets caught in a humane mousetrap and taken far, far away. Theatre tradition says that no matter what happens, the show must go on – but how can the mice possibly continue with this performance, when the star is missing and the theatre itself may be demolished?
To find out if the show really does go on, you’ll have to read the book!
Extras: Both Ms. Andrews and Ms. Walton Hamilton, who wrote the book, are actresses and both have been stage directors as well. That means they know a lot about being on stage, and being backstage, and that comes across in the book. Just from reading the book, you can learn a lot about the theatre and about acting. They also had a lot of fun creating mouse-ified versions of real Broadway musicals and their songs. It’s fun to try to recognize the real titles in the mouse-ified ones.
Mr. Walton, who drew the illustrations for the book, has spent much of his life designing costumes and sets for plays and movies, so he added his own knowledge to his drawings.
Not only that, but Ms. Andrews and Ms. Walton Hamilton have a wonderful website for all their books, called The Julie Andrews Collection, and it has all kinds of cool stuff about theatre and acting, based on this book. Please click this link — Theatre Wisdom — to explore all they offer
And, as if all that weren’t enough, there are also coloring pages based on Mr. Walton’s drawings!
Availability: Unfortunately, this wonderful book is out of print in paperback, but you might be able to get it in hardcover, and you can still get it through used book sellers online. Maybe if enough people wrote to the publisher, the publisher would realize that they need to bring this book back into print!