Alexander and the Wind-up Mouse by Leo Lionni is one of my all time favorite books. Alexander is a mouse who is lonely until he meets Willie, a toy wind-up mouse. Alexander wants to be just like Willie because Willie is loved by everyone. Alexander hears about a lizard in the garden who can grant wishes, so he goes to meet him so that he can become a beloved wind-up mouse just like Willie. The lizard tells him to bring him a purple pebble “when the moon is round.” Alexander goes on a mad search for a purple pebble, but to no avail. He returns to the house to find Willie in a box of toys ready to be thrown out. The little girl who owned Willie has just celebrated a birthday and has no use for her old toys. As Alexander listens to Willie’s tale of woe, he spots a purple pebble. He runs to the lizard in the garden. When the lizard asks him what he wishes to change into, Alexander surprisingly asks the lizard to change Willie into a real mouse. The lizard grants the wish and the two mice dance off happily ever after.
This book has always captured my imagination. As a child I was entranced by the magic, and I am still today. I love how Alexander goes in search of a magic lizard to solve his problems. It is a kind of mouse “Aladdin” story.
I also love that Alexander puts his friend before himself. In the beginning he is jealous of Willie and all the attention he gets. He wants to be loved just like Willie. In the end, he realizes that he is loved…by Willie.
I am also fascinated by the lizard. Why a magic lizard? Is it just because it rhymes with wizard? Are lizards thought to have magical powers? I have always felt that there was something deep and mystical about the lizard. When I read his parts I try to sound mysterious and commanding. Sort of like the Wizard of Oz.
Leo Lionni was a master at creating deep and intricate stories for children. Somehow, his books are at one time quick to read, but loaded with values and morality. They are all magic in their own way.