“In all France there was no happier, more contented mouse than Anatole.” Anatole has his friends, his family, and his nightly foraging. What more could a mouse ask for? Then, one evening he overhears humans complaining about mice, “[t]hey are a disgrace to France…To be a mouse is to be a villain!” He is absolutely distraught to learn that mice are unwanted; his pride is wounded and he is determined to redeem the reputation of mice, or at least salvage his honor! He decides to find some way to give back for the food they take.
The next night, he excuses himself from the daily foraging and stops at the Duval cheese factory. Sliding under the door of the cheese-tasting room he sets to work. He carefully tries each cheese and on each one he leaves a little note with suggestions for improvement. After all, who would know better than a mouse how a cheese should taste? He has pre-typed signs that say things like “good, ‘specially good, not so good, and no good” and to each sign he adds a note -“needs more salt, “add more goat’s milk,” or “add some more orange peel.” Each cheese gets a sign, and with a feeling of satisfaction, he heads home.
The next day, everyone at the factory is surprised by the signs, but, following the directions, they change the cheese recipes and soon business improves beyond their wildest imagination. But Anatole is a mystery to the factory. Who is he? Mr. Duval desperately wants to find and reward the mysterious Anatole. Will Mr. Duval find out that it’s a mouse leaving the note? What will he do? You’ll have to read the rest of the story to find out and discover if Anatole’s identity remains a secret!
Anatole written by Eve Titus with illustrations by Paul Galdone is such a great story and it’s one we’ve read over and over again. If you’re planning a trip to France, it’s a perfect introduction to the idea that there are lots of cheeses out there (besides cheddar), with more than 500 recognized cheeses in France alone. Anatole’s tasting adventures at the Duval factory would be a great idea for introducing your little one to some of the other cheeses available. Turn it into an Anatole style adventure and see if they have any suggestions for improving the flavors in the cheeses they try as well! Any good fromagerie will offer a large selection of cheeses to try, some good ones are Androuet near the Musee D’Orsay or Barthélémy at 51, rue de Grenelle in the 7e. Here’s a list to find one near where you’re planning on staying. Happy tasting!