Stuart Little by E B White (Elwyn Brooks White, July 11, 1899 – October 1, 1985) allows us to tap into our creativity and unleash our imagination. As adults, it’s important that once in a while we enter into the land of make believe. To enjoy the story, we have to open up our minds to a place where parents can have a mouse as a child, animals can talk, and a mouse can drive a toy car and sail a model boat.
In the tale of Stuart Little by E B White, Mr and Mrs Little have a mouse for their second child (George being the first and human). They embrace and love their child and name him Stuart, and make adjustments in the house to make it safe for their small addition to the family. You cannot help but like Stuart because he is such a likeable guy – industrious, innovative, and always willing to lend a helping hand.
Stuart loves his family, except for the cat Snowbell, who is not very trustworthy. One day while showing the cat how fit he is, Stuart gets trapped in the window shade, and instead of rescuing him, Snowbell takes his cane and hat and lay them by the mousehole to give the impression that that’s where the mouse has gone. Stuart is too weak to cry for help. The Little family search all over their home trying to find Stuart, but to no avail.
They now believe that their son must be dead. George who gets great ideas, but never follows through before moving on to the next thing that catches his fancy, suggests that they draw the window shades down as a sign of respect for Stuart. Before they can respond to him he pulls down the window shade and out drops Stuart who is weak but quite happy.
One day, Stuart contracts bronchitis and is in bed for two weeks. During that time, Mrs Little rescues a small, injured bird on her window sill. Margalo, the bird, forms a deep friendship with Stuart. Stuart doesn’t trust Snowbell and warns his family against the cat who he thinks will harm the bird. They think the bird will be safe, but Stuart feels quite uneasy and decides to follow his instinct. He goes downstairs and hides, waiting for Snowbell, and as expected, the evil cat appears to harm the bird and Stuart shoots it in the ear.
One morning while trying to hide from a dog, Stuart jumps into a garbage can. However, before he is able to escape, he is thrown into the garbage truck which drives away. Stuart doesn’t get the opportunity to escape, and the truck arrives at the East River which borders New York City. The garbage truck backs up on to the pier and dumps its load. Stuart believes he is going to die, but Margalo rescues him. The bird saw Stuart hiding from the dog and thrown into the truck and followed them. When bird and mouse arrive at the house, Mrs Little is very happy to see them because she had started to worry.
Snowbell likes the nighttime more than the daytime and often goes to visit his cat friends in the neighbourhood. One of his friends, an Angora cat, wants to eat Margalo, fortunately a pigeon overhears the conversation and writes the message, “Beware of a Strange Cat Who Will Come by Night,” signs it A Well Wisher and leaves it for the bird. Margalo sees the messages and heeds the warning, leaving the Little house without notifying anyone.
The family is quite upset when they cannot find Margalo, and Stuart is impacted the greatest because of the deep friendship he has formed with the bird. After a while, Stuart decides that he is going on a trip in search of his friend. After he gathers his things together, he decides to visit his friend, a surgeon-dentist, Dr Carey who owns the model schooner, Wasp because he wants to know which direction to travel.
Dr Carey advises Stuart to head north, which is indeed the direction that Margalo is traveling. He gives the mouse a toy car to drive. Stuart is now on his way to find Margalo. Stuart encounters a man, the Superintendent of Schools, who is quite distressed because he cannot find a substitute teacher. Stuart offers to fill the role and enters the classroom, dressed in professional attire. He decides that the only way he’ll succeed is to take charge.
Stuart decides to skip arithmetic, the next class is spelling which he considers important, but he tells his students they should get a Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary to consult whenever they are in doubt on how to spell a word. He asks them the profound question, “What are the important things in the world?” By answering the questions the students discover tenets to live by. Although Stuart isn’t really a teacher, in a short time, he has added value to the lives of the children, and they recognize that.
He moves on and stops in a lovely town called Ame’s Crossing. The shopkeeper tells Stuart about Harriet Ames, who is his size. He gets a glimpse of the girl and decides to write and invite her on a date. He works very hard to prepare for his date, and he has confidence that Harriet will be there for the date. She arrives promptly, but they soon discover that some has destroyed the canoe he worked so hard on the get ready for his date. Stuart becomes very forlorn and refuses to be consoled. Harriet leaves and they do not have their date.
For me, this is a major disconnect in E B White’s Stuart Little because this one action doesn’t match Stuart’s other actions and behaviours. Stuart approaches Dr Carey and offers to sail his schooner. The mouse takes an excursion on the bus alone. Stuart is depicted as being very resilient and open to adventures. And I also did not appreciate the way the story ended – it was too open. I know that he has a deep longing for his friend Margalo, and would not easily abandon his search. I know that ultimately he will return home because of the love he has for his family. I also know that a sign of a good story is when the author leaves the story open, and E B White is considered an excellent author, but I have to voice my opinions.
Except for the ending, I enjoyed Stuart Little by E B White and recommend it. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. If you enjoyed this post, please share it.
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Further Reading – Other Children’s Stories