The Tale of Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter
(Warne, 2002, 64 pages)
In this story Potter plays with the humorous interaction of animals and inanimate playthings, as two mice, Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca, invade a doll-house while its occupants are out being played with. The mice are confused by toy food made of plaster and the flames in the fireplace made of colored paper. They vandalize the little house, breaking dishes, smashing the plaster food, and making off with various items back to their home behind the walls. The dolls are appalled when they return to their house, though of course their painted faces show no expression. Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca show some remorse in the end – Tom place a crooked sixpence that he found into the doll’s stocking on Christmas Eve, and Hunca Munca sneaks into the house regularly to sweep and clean.
The inspiration for Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca came from two mice who Potter saved from a trap, granted names, and kept as pets. These mice served as models for the mice in the story, and the doll-house and toy food were modeled after items owned by her publisher’s niece. I find hilarious Potter’s depiction of mice who are confused and enraged by the cruel oddity of delicious looking food that can’t be eaten. This one is also great to read aloud – mainly because it’s fun to say Hunca Munca.