Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.12.06

David Noe, Tres Mures Caeci. Illustrated by Michelle Thoburn.   Purcellville:  Patrick Henry College Press, 2005.  Pp. 41.  ISBN 0-9714458-1-9.  $11.99.  



Reviewed by Vibeke Roggen, University of Oslo (vibeke.roggen@ifikk.uio.no)
Word count: 380 words

The book is , as the title reveals , a children's book in Latin: the starting point for the exciting story is, of course, the nursery rhyme "Three blind mice". The rather cruel story is told by David Noe with a good share of fantasy and , equally important , a warm heart. And, as in good bedtime stories, there is a moral too, about different approaches to life. Through the story, one observes two miserable and unhappy mice (named Infelix and Miser), and their happy brother, Contentus. The story takes place somewhere in the countryside in antiquity. Michelle Thoburn's illustrations contribute greatly to the value of the book. She has even turned the pagination (Roman numerals, of course!) into an amusing detail. The mice are charming, but not too sweet. One question is, do "mice" necessarily have to be boy mice?

The language in the book is simple and the narrative is for the most part in the present tense. As in fairytales, repetitions are preferred to artificial variation. One reads, on p. XXIII: "Sed mus Infelix non ridet." followed a short time later by the same thing happening to the next mouse: "Sed mus Miser non ridet." (p. XXV) In only one case did this reviewer pause: "Statim Uxor cultrum acutissimus coruscans videtur." The meaning of "uxor ... videtur" is, apparently, "the wife appears/the wife is seen", and personally, I would have preferred apparet.

In the end of the book, there is a wordlist for all the Latin words in the text. There is also an English translation of the story. On the back cover there are some well-known quotations, slightly altered. For instance, as we all know, Cicero's words were "O tempora, o mures!" Regarding the audience for this book, Catullus has something to say: "To whom shall I give this new little book, hot off the presses? To everyone of course." I think small children will love the story (in translation, I suppose) and the illustrations. The simple and (mostly) easy language, combined with the readers' help at the end, makes the book a good "easy reader" for beginners in Latin. And in my opinion, the book could be enjoyed by readers of any age. The primary contribution of this book is that it makes you smile.

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