Children's stories with adult protagonists are rare; they work best when the adult character is a small animal a creature at ''I'' level with young readers. The comic possibilities of high-flown speech emanating from a little animal are delectable, and Eve Titus exploits them fully in this 1956 story of a Gallic mouse named Anatole.
Anatole lives in a small mouse village outside Paris. Every night, the husbands and fathers in the mouse community (yes, this is the '50s) bicycle to Paris to find food for their families. Anatole, an upstanding bourgeois papa, is shocked one night to overhear some humans express loathing for the filthy, thieving mice.
Devastated, Anatole vows to find a more honorable livelihood. He dreams up an ingenious plan: Working secretly at night, he taste-tests cheeses in the Duval cheese factory, communicating his judgments with little notes. His sophisticated palate leads Duval to commercial success, and Anatole to a position as vice president in charge of cheese tasting.
Anatole is irresistibly French and heroic. The language, sprinkled with French phrases, is as elegant and amusing as a sparkling wine. And Paul Galdone's soft, chalky black-and-white drawings, highlighted with reds and blues, recall the fluency, wit, and charm of other notable illustrators of the time, such as Ludwig Bemelmans and Don Freeman. ''Vive Anatole!'' says his friend Gaston. ''A mouse magnifique!'' A