Nominated for the 1957 Caldecott Medal, and subsequently named a Caldecott Honor book, Anatole is a good example of the sort of children’s fiction that tends to be overlooked today, perhaps because the illustrations are simpler and printed in only three colors. Perhaps more off-putting for today’s children, Anatole is someone they have never heard of – not a character in a movie, or TV show, not tied in with Disney or any other mega-giant purveyer of children’s media, though Anatole and the Cat was made into a successful musical in 2014.
Anatole is simply an original and satisfying story, with well-executed illustrations, which, without any outward manifestation of Christianity, reflects an important part of a Biblical worldview.
The main character is a mouse. But the thing that makes this book important is that he’s a mouse of honor, a mouse deeply offended by the idea of stealing for a living, choosing rather to work for his food. A responsible husband and father of six charming children, Anatole comes up with an ingenious plan for anonymously earning a living as a cheese taster at the Duvall cheese factory.
In the sequel, Anatole and the Cat, another a Caldecott Honor Book, Anatole and his partner Gaston encounter a deadly enemy. Anatole, with his usual ingenuity and courage, meets the threat to their livelihood – and lives – with a very satisfying solution.