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In Mikko's family, young men find their sweethearts by cutting down a tree and following where it points. As his father says, "That's how we've done it, and that's how we always will."
Though Mikko's brother makes his tree fall how he wants, Mikko's tree seems to have ideas of its own. So, what is Mikko to do when it sends him into the forest and all he finds there is a mouse? And what if the mouse offers gladly to be his sweetheart, and even passes the test that is set by Mikko's father?
This sweet tale from Finland shows that even a mouse can be special, and that trees may well fall true.
Aaron Shepard is the award-winning author of "The Baker's Dozen," "The Sea King's Daughter," "The Adventures of Mouse Deer," and many more children's books. His stories have appeared often in Cricket magazine, while his Web site is known internationally as a prime resource for folktales, storytelling, and reader's theater.
Leonid Gore is the Russian-born illustrator of numerous acclaimed picture books.
2003 New York Public Library's "100 Titles for Reading and Sharing"
"Magical events and a moral dilemma give this Finnish tale its staying power. Gore's distinctively angled figures deepen the folktale feel. The northern spring can almost be felt." -- Publishers Weekly, Dec. 9, 2002
"The language is bright and cheery throughout, with the kind of repetition children and storytellers love. . . . Prettily told, with sweet lessons about love and trust, no matter how odd the circumstances." -- Kirkus Reviews, Dec. 15, 2002
"Shepard's charmingly droll version combines classic elements with unexpected, witty details. . . . The jewel-toned art has beautiful luminescence; the elongated, somewhat blocky look of the characters reinforces the fantasy; and the mice are downright irresistible. . . . Quirky, enjoyable, and easily adapted for storytime." -- Shelle Rosenfeld, American Library Association Booklist, Feb. 1, 2003
"Shepard does his usual capable job of retelling this old tale in clear, simple, yet effective prose. . . . A pleasant, attractive addition to folklore shelves." -- Grace Oliff, School Library Journal, Feb. 2003
"All this way for nothing," he said sadly.
"Maybe not!" came a tiny voice.
Mikko looked around, but the only living thing in sight was a little mouse on a table. Standing on its hind legs, it gazed at him with large, bright eyes.
"Did you say something?" he asked it.
"Of course I did! Now, why don't you tell me your name and what you came for?"
Mikko had never talked with a mouse, but he felt it only polite to reply. "My name is Mikko, and I've come looking for a sweetheart."
The mouse squealed in delight. "Why, Mikko, I'll gladly be your sweetheart!"
"But you're only a mouse," said Mikko.
"That may be true," she said, "but I can still love you faithfully. Besides, even a mouse can be special! Come feel my fur."
With one finger, Mikko stroked the mouse's back. "Why, it feels like velvet! Just like the gown of a princess!"
"That's right, Mikko." And as he petted her, she sang to him prettily.
"Mikko's sweetheart will I be.
What a fine young man is he!
Gown of velvet I do wear,
Like a princess fine and rare."