Peter Brighouse, Author and Illustrator of Louisa's Ginger Nuts Series

Bed-time short story, most suitable for reading to the kids.

Tabitha's Mouse Crèche


"Miamacow, where's Tabitha this morning?" asked Bullpuss.

"Miaroop! She's in the garden running her mouse crèche," answered Mungojerrie from the comfort of his favourite blue velvet chair.

"Macow, how does that work?" asked Tigtoes, walking into the room.

"It's quite amusing," replied Mungojerrie who began to explain.

Seemingly Tabitha had devised a sneaky feline plan. She had made the local mice families aware that she was happy to supervise their youngsters in her mouse crèche. This enabled the parents to conduct their mouse affairs without the encumbrance of a large family in tow. The parents could stock up on essential mouse supplies and return later to collect their broods.

She had organised a series of games and educational activities which culminated in her favourite which was called 'What time is it, Miss Tabitha?' The young mice were sent to collect the clocks from dandelion flower heads, of which there was a constant supply from the neighbouring garden. Tabbo would face the hedge and pretend to hide her eyes with one paw, whilst holding the first dandelion clock in the other. The crowd of young mice would line up in a row behind her and creep softly forward on mice tippy-toes, whilst Tabbo blew gently at the clock. The mice would suddenly stop and one would shout out, "What time is it, Miss Tabitha?"

Initially Tabitha would reply in an off-pawed manner, 'It's 2 o-clock, or 3 o-clock or suchlike,' and the whole sequence would begin again, with the mice getting closer and closer to her tail.

Mungo paused in his tale and Squimps who had been listening avidly, excitedly spoke up.

"Mow mow, I know what happens next, please can I tell the tale Mungo?"

Mungo graciously waved an affirmative paw and Squimps continued.

"When the dandelion clock is all blown away, the silly little mice don't seem to notice that Tabitha is left holding a stump, and invariably when the mice next ask 'What time is it, Miss Tabitha?' she turns and leaps upon them, with a loud miaow of 'It's cat snack time!'"

Everyone laughed and Bullpuss said, "I imagine it's a careful balance between not having enough baby mice to send home to their parents and the adult's ability to count!"

"Mirrawacow, it's natural selection in action!" said Squimps.