ACTIVITY: Positive Images & Messages of Peace (excerpt)
A Special Example – The Story of Jumping Mouse
John Steptoe's 40-page illustrated version of THE STORY OF JUMPING MOUSE (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 105 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016) is a Native American legend of a Magic Frog who gives his jumping legs to a discouraged young mouse who had recently set out in pursuit of her dream -- a journey to the far-off land. He also tells Jumping Mouse to remember three words -- "never lose hope". Rejuvenated and able to travel much more quickly, Jumping Mouse resumes her journey.
On the way she encounters a fat old mouse who entices her to enjoy a comfortable rest. But Jumping Mouse recovers her resolve just in time, as her lazy host is eaten by a snake. When her journey brings her to a vast prairie, Jumping Mouse discovers a lonely buffalo just standing there. Upon inquiry, she learns that the buffalo is blind, so Jumping Mouse imitates Magic Frog by giving her eyes to a blind buffalo (renamed "Eyes of a Mouse") and the buffalo leads her across the prairie on his back. At the end of the prairie the buffalo can go no further and Jumping Mouse recalls Magic Frog's words, "never lose hope" and thus proceeds into the forest ahead.
Soon she hears an animal who identifies himself as a fox who can't smell. Jumping Mouse tries her magic once more and is able to give the fox her nose and renames him "Nose of a Mouse"). In turn, the fox leads Jumping Mouse through the forest. But as the forest ends at the foot of a high mountain and the fox can go no further, Jumping Mouse goes to sleep in despair in the face of this seemingly insurmountable barrier to her goal. While sleeping, she hears someone approach and suddenly Magic Frog appears and tells Jumping Mouse to jump as high as she can and remember his words, "never lose hope". She gathers her courage, leaps as high as she can, and discovers herself soaring over the mountain as Magic Frog below shouts out Jumping Mouse's new name -- "Eagle".
You can embellish this core of the story in many ways, perhaps creating a dramatic reading or play, adapting it to the age and interests of your students. At a minimum, you can tell the story on the move, imitating Jumping Mouse in each part of her journey, with the children chanting Magic Frog's words -- "never lose hope" -- each time it is appropriate.
Note: This story as dramatized by “Francis the Clown” (Dr. James McGinnis) to a group of elementary students in a religious education class is available on a 30-minute video from the Institute for Peace and Justice ($15, plus mailing).
If you like rhythmic introductions to stories as a way of capturing the children's attention, you might use or adapt the following introduction, inviting the children to fill in the blank words:
Discussion questions following the story could include: