Don’t Sit on Tumtum with Your Bum Bum!

Okay, that’s some really bad potty humor, but it made us laugh.  My daughter and I had been reading Tumtum and Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall (2008), a lovely adventure story about domesticated (and quite civilized) mice.  We left the book on a chair in our living room, and when my husband sat on it and didn’t realize that he was sitting on it, we said, “Don’t sit on Tumtum with your bum bum!” to tease him.

As to the book, it is quite charming.  It is a children’s book published by British author Emily Bearn.  Despite many punctuation problems and what I would consider to be grammatical errors (darn my copyediting eye), Olivia and I enjoyed reading it together.

tumtum and nutmeg coverTumtum is the husband mouse, who wears a tweed suit, and Nutmeg is his lovely wife, who enjoys baking and keeping up their large home called Nutmouse Hall.  This home is centuries old (reminiscent of old English country estates) and lies inside Rose Cottage, a small ramshackle home of Mr. Mildew and his two children.  The Mildew home is neglected and rundown because, of course, a single father can’t be expected to do any housework.  He’s too busy inventing things!  The children are somewhat neglected, so Nutmeg takes it upon herself (and enlists Tumtum) to fix things up for the children.

The pitiful state of the home is what actually allows Nutmouse Hall not to be discovered.  It is a spacious manor in a forgotten broom closet in the kitchen.  Nobody knows the broom closet is there, because it was long ago covered up by a large chest/armoire.

Of course, every story needs conflict and a good villain.  This is where Aunt Ivy comes in.  She comes to visit, discovers the mice (dressed in clothing!) prancing about the house, and vows to destroy them.  The mice are caught after leaving the children’s room (in the attic, no less) where they had been darning socks, fixing the radiator, and tidying up the dollhouse.

And so warfare ensues.  Aunt Ivy plots to kill them with toxic hairspray and the mice must give up their efforts to help the children in order to stay safe.  I won’t give away the entire plot, although I doubt any of you will end up reading this book, but Nutmeg must enlist the help of General Marchmouse in order to save themselves and Nutmouse Hall.

The toxic hairspray part appealed to me because of my love of hairspray.  I’ve always been obsessed with how my hair looks, especially since my mother always told me how ugly and thin it was.  When I became a teenager, I spent hours curling, teasing, and spraying it.  I used so much hairspray that my witty little sister took to calling me Uncle Stinky.  (I still use a lot of hairspray.  Old habits die hard.)

The book really is a stupid story.  But I loved it!  I did.  I have always had an affinity for the miniature.  There’s something so appealing about a smaller world.  Some of my favorite books growing up were The Borrowers and The Littles.  I even wrote my own story about a miniature person named Sarah Small.  That manuscript mysteriously disappeared, otherwise I would still have it.  At the time, I blamed my step-father for throwing it away, and I still do.  Forgive and forget?  No way!  That could’ve been a bestselling children’s book.

And as few as five years ago, I built my own dollhouse.  It was something I had always wanted to do.  I’d spent years pining for one, begging for a kit, and hoping that I’d be able to do it. Well, I finally did it.  I bought a kit for the simplest dollhouse and I spent each night after my young daughter went to bed pounding nails and gluing window frames.  One of the windows turned out badly, but after that first attempt, I had it figured out, and the rest went in correctly.  It didn’t look great.  It wasn’t perfect.  But I had finally done it.

Will I do it again?  No way!

In fact, I recently gave that dollhouse to the thrift store.  It was too big, in the way, and starting to lose some of the parts.  I said my goodbyes and let go.  I guess you could say it was cathartic.  I built it, I held onto it, and then I was able to move on.  It’s not my talent nor will it become a big hobby of mine.  But I’m glad I tried it.

My overall impression of Tumtum and Nutmeg is that it is a fun and heartwarming book.  But as I thought logically about it, mice are pretty creepy.  I wouldn’t want them in my house, even if they were helping my poor, cold, neglected children.  So while reading about them is one thing, having this story turn real would be quite disgusting, especially when they attack Aunt Ivy.