Eeek! A mouse!Linda Satchwell
Squeak the Mouse is going south! Doesn’t sound like big news? Think again. At Pioneer Elementary School in Quincy, where Squeak (brother to Sam from the “Library Mouse” by Daniel Kirk) took up residence in October, the news that he would be leaving for the winter months, due to health concerns, sent shockwaves through the school.
In fact, second-grader James White, who eagerly writes letters to Squeak and reads his replies said he didn’t think Squeak would go in the end, “because he lives in a school. His main hole’s in the library, and the library’s warm.”
When kindergartener Kristen Murphy, who writes to Squeak two or three times a week, was informed of his impending move to Arizona, she also had a solution. “I’m moving to Arizona,” she said without hesitation.
James characterized Squeak as “nice, and smart, too, because he knows about my Webkinz (stuffed animals that kids can create a virtual world for online). In one of my letters, he said he likes animals like me,” James added.
Kristen said Squeak “waddles sometimes,” doing the move herself. She gave Squeak a whistle “to warn his family of Frank.”
Frank Carey, head custodian at Pioneer, has said he can’t have rodents running around his school, and he’s determined to catch Squeak and family and release them into the wild.
Pioneer’s reading specialist, Annie Harris, “discovered” Squeak after reading “Library Mouse.” What a surprise it was to find that Sam’s brother was living right here in Quincy. Harris put out a box in which students could place letters written to Squeak. Since he is a library mouse, he enjoys writing back to the children.
According to Principal Kest Porter, every day since the project began, students use their recess and lunchtime to read letters written by other students along with Squeak’s responses. They’ll often take the time to write a letter to Squeak and pop it in the box, as well.
At first, said Harris, it was mostly girls who wrote. So, she set up an area of the bulletin board for boys, and they began to write. Later, she made up a form for kindergartners, where they could draw a picture and write a few words. The kindergarten area is full of letters now. In fact, the letters stretch across bulletin boards that run the entire length of the auditorium.
Students who normally wouldn’t focus on reading and writing have been very involved in this project. The lovable and prolific mouse has become so successful that even the older Quincy Elementary students who wait for the bus outside Pioneer have started writing to him and asking him to visit their school.
On a recent trip to the grocery store, Harris heard two parents talking about Squeak’s adventures. Squeak has become so popular that there are letters in the faculty room, as well.
One from Superintendent Glenn Harris strikes the perfect faux administrative note: “It has come to my attention that you are new on campus and that you need to go to the make-up picture day to get your identification badge. Please take care of this small matter at your convenience.
“I also understand that you have been leaving food for some of the children. Has the food been handled properly? If you have prepared the food, did you do so in a state certified kitchen? Have you been trained in proper food handling skills?”
Carey, the custodian, has become the designated villain. Children write to tell Squeak how to avoid him, and they write Carey himself telling him to back off from their favorite mouse.
One student left his cell phone number and asked Squeak to phone him. When Squeak wrote back that he’d dropped his phone in the toilet, the child wrote back, “Dear Skeek, Did you seriously drop you’er phone in the toilet?”
Other letters show how this magical mouse has drawn writing and reading skills out of the youngest children at school. A few follow:
“I think you are cute can you teach me how to write a god buk can you Please Please,” signed, Ruby, Room 18.
“I want you to go to the Library today. Plese go their today,” signed Calianna Johnson, Room 17.
“Thanks for writing back. No I can’t beleave that people hate you. Yes. It is safe to vist QES (Quincy Elementary School). Please come, but stay with me so you don’t get lost,” from Haley.
“I would like to met you. It would be fun to play with you. Please come to my class room.” Rachel, Room 17.
According to Annie Harris, Squeak isn’t the only one that needs a vacation. Her own role in the project, which she plays down, especially since kids will be reading this article, has become nearly a half-time job she said.
This is a “multi-faceted project,” explained Harris. “It grew from nothing into this wonderful teaching tool. Kids are reading and writing because they want to. What more could you ask for?”