Mortimer’s Christmas Manger: Catholic Children’s Picture Book

Author: Karma Wilson

Illustrator: Jane Chapman

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Soman & Schuster

Age Range: 4 – 8 years.

Although originally published fifteen years ago, this Christmas story about Mortimer the mouse is still an endearing and relevant tale that will become one of your family favourites.  Karma Wilson has written a simple tale about a cute little mouse who can’t find a warm place to sleep.

The illustrations by Jane Chapman are a real highlight of this picture book. I loved the comfortable disorder of this ordinary family home she has created.  Toys, books and lego pieces lie about on the floor.  The Christmas tree is somewhat straggly and messily put together, but these details add to the overall charm of the story.  Most families who read this picture book will relate to the odd assortment of Christmas decorations that hang from the tree.

The hero of our story, Mortimer the mouse is not particularly happy because his mouse hole is cold and uninviting. He fossicks about the Christmas tree looking for a better home. Mortimer is drawn as a cute and feisty little fellow who isn’t fussed about tossing the various figures of a nativity scene out of the stable. He busily spends the evening emptying out the stable so that he can sleep in the warm straw of the manger. But each day, the nativity scene is put back together, and each night Mortimer repeats his “tugging and lugging” of each of the statues so that he can sleep once more in the manger.

But then this cosy little family in their stripey socks and fuzzy slippers cuddle up into the old couch and read the Christmas story from the Bible. Mortimer listens in with interest.  He hears about how there was no room at the inn, and baby Jesus was born in a cold stable.  Mortimer realizes that his new home is actually a copy of the stable that baby Jesus was born in.  So, he decides to put the statues back in place and carefully places Baby Jesus back into the warm manger. Mortimer prays and asks Jesus for a warm home for himself – and what do you think he finds?  A mansion!  An answer to his prayers!  A gingerbread house!

Children will love this story.  Clearly the deeper message here is about making room for Jesus in our lives during the busy Christmas season, and not forgetting that there was once no room for Jesus to be born. This is a clever, enjoyable Christmas book.  Children will celebrate Mortimer’s character development as he grows in understanding and makes room for Baby Jesus.  They will certainly love the ending when he finds a brightly coloured gingerbread house to live in. A wonderfully written and illustrated Christmas book that you can purchase HERE.

Some Homeschool and Teacher Ideas.

  • Discuss with children/students how Baby Jesus is sometimes “pushed out” of Christmas with our emphasis on get togethers, presents, Father Christmas and feasts.

“There’s no room for you here,” Mortimer said.  “Out you go.”

How can we put Baby Jesus back into the manger, where he belongs?

  • Following on from the above discussion, ask children to draw/paint/create artworks of themselves at Midnight Mass, or visiting a nativity, or putting money in the St Vinnie’s box at church – or whatever they have decided is a good way to focus on Jesus at Christmas.
  • Have your children help with making a nativity scene – use lots of natural materials from outside e.g. pieces of wood, grass or straw, sticks and stones and shells to make the stable. The figures can be drawings that are cut out, or if you are more crafty there are some simple ways to put together the figures of the nativity using left over fabrics or other items from around the house.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, and it doesn’t have to be expensive to make.  Talk to your children about each of the figures as you make them.
  • Some great ideas on Pinterest

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