This is the sweet story — written by award-winning children’s author and humorist, Karen Rostoker-Gruber — of Maddie, a very shy young mouse, too shy to raise her hand in school or to ask the waiter for anything in a restaurant. She is not even able to talk to her Grandma’s friends when she visits Grandma at her senior home, as badly as she wishes to do so. She is just too shy!
One day, during a visit to Grandma, she is enthralled by a Mitzvah Clown named Giggles who makes balloon hats for the residents, sings, juggles, dances, and asks Maddie if she would like a balloon hat. He also offers Maddie a rainbow wig and a big red nose. Maddie stares at herself in the mirror, but doesn’t recognize herself. She loves the way she looks and happily smiles at her image.
Maddie imagines herself being able to entertain Grandma’s friends as Giggles does. Giggles encourages her to be a Mitzvah Clown, too. He assures her that even shy mice can be successful. Maddie learns to put on clown makeup, sing, dance, juggle, and talk to people in senior homes. The last thing to do is to pick out the clown name that is right for her. As she paces around, she hears her shoes squeaking. She excitedly decides to be Squeakers the Mitzvah Clown. Squeakers accompanies Giggles and other clowns on visits to senior homes and hospitals and happily entertains many residents, becoming less shy with every visit. Eventually, she accomplishes the bravest thing of all, talking to Grandma’s friends as Maddie without any costume and enjoying the relationships. The book exudes love as the reader feels Maddie gain confidence and strengthen her sense of self.
The story is followed by a note explaining what a mitzvah is and what a Mitzvah Clown does. It gives readers some suggestions for performing mitzvot of their own. The book is perfect for individual reading but would also be excellent for school units relating to mitzvot, Purim, grandparents, and aging, and would be useful for encouraging shy children to gain confidence. It makes an excellent read-aloud.
The illustrations are as endearing as is the story. The illustrator begins with grays, adding bits of color gradually as Maddie begins to gain confidence. By the time Maddie is fully confident, the illustrations are multicolored and filled with happy-looking mice.
Highly recommended for ages 3 to 7.
–Shelly Feit, Jewish Book Council