Nicholas, A Massachusetts Tale, published by Mitten Press, is about a young mouse that sets out from his home under the farmer’s kitchen across the state to get a copy of his family’s journal, after a flood destroys his father’s copy.
Once there was a man named Peter.
He was married to a nice lady, had two children, and worked on a ship called Mayflower II.But something was missing.
Peter wanted to be a writer. He wrote stories all the time, and he even belonged to a writers’ club. He gave his friends copies of his stories to read, but Peter wanted everyone to read his stories.
Then the Mayflower II had its 50th birthday and Peter got an idea. He wrote a story about a kitten who made the trip from England to American aboard the ship. The story was based on the adventures of a kitten named Felix, who really did sail on the Mayflower II.
The museum that owned Mayflower II liked the story and published it, and Peter finally got his wish, but that wasn’t the end.
Less than six months after Felix, the Mayflower II Cat was published, Peter Arenstam has a new book. This time it’s about a young mouse named Nicholas, and Arenstam hopes his second book will be as well received as his first.
Nicholas, A Massachusetts Tale, published by Mitten Press, is about a young mouse that sets out from his home under the farmer’s kitchen across the state to get a copy of his family’s journal, after a flood destroys his father’s copy. The young mouse meets new friends and has wild adventures on his way to his uncle’s house in West Tisbury on Martha’s Vineyard. Did we mention Nicholas is coming from Stockbridge in the Berkshire mountains?
Finding ways to get a tiny mouse from one end of the state to the other was a problem for Arenstam. He didn’t have the plot device built into the story like he did for Felix, so he had to think of something.Luckily, this type of story was right up Arenstam’s aisle.
“The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien was one of my favorite stories growing up,” Arenstam said. “The idea of the journey, the quest and the traveling. The exploration of space and yourself is the ultimate way to tell a story. You just have to find ways for a little mouse to befriend other animals or take advantage public transportation.”
So Nicholas hitches a ride with a goose, a deer, a fishing boat, and even the T, to get to the Vineyard. Along the way, the little mouse learns about the state he grew up in – its history and geography, its wildlife and plant life, its folklore, and, of course, meets friends along the way. Fortunately for Arenstam, Nicholas is a very curious mouse.
The family journal is the reason for Nicholas’ travels and it has meaning for Arenstam.
“Because I work at Plimoth Plantation I hear an awful lot about the Pilgrim story from people who are justifiably proud of their family history and what their families mean to this country,” Arenstam said. “As important as those stories are to the individual and the country, every family’s history is important. It is what makes us who we are, a part of our community and our country.
“Nicholas’s story may not be of historical importance, but it’s important to his family, and it makes him who he is. Not having the journal, it’s important to connect back with his past.”
Arenstam also gets to write about being from New England. He grew up on a farm in Westfield. Then his family moved to Plymouth when he was in the third grade, so Arenstam got a taste of both sides of the state – the rural, mountainous farmland of the Berkshires, and the coastal suburbs and cranberry bogs of the South Shore.
As Nicholas travels across the state, Arenstam tried to write about the feel of each area: the Quabbin Reservoir, Wachusett Mountain, Boston, Gloucester, Plymouth, and finally the Vineyard.
“Each part of the state has a different feel,” Arenstam said. “I tried to be aware of the season and weather and that sense of being from New England. I wanted to talk about being from new England, being part of a family, what it means to be from a particular place and what it means to have a family history.”
But Nicholas’ travels don’t end on the Vineyard. Arenstam, and the folks at Mitten Press are planning three more books about the curious little mouse.
Nicholas travels to Maine in the next book, but Arenstam wanted to be sure Nicholas’ adventures didn’t repeat themselves.
“The trick to writing this series is inventing different ways to travel and inventing other characters,” Arenstam said. “I wouldn’t be very happy writing the same story over and over again.”
Every writer has a different trick to writing a story. Arenstam’s trick is to start with the places Nicholas goes to, then figure out a reason why he’s going there, and finally, how he’ll get there. But the travels can’t become repetitive, or else no one will read the next book.
Nicholas’ journey to Maine is next, and Arenstam is working on a story about New Hampshire and planning one about Vermont. His editor wanted four books, but Arenstam hopes Nicholas will end up having six adventures, one in each of the New England states.
But first Nicholas has to survive Massachusetts, and mice aren’t known for their long life spans. At least real mice aren’t – fictional mice, on the other hand, can have long lives.
Nicholas, A Massachusetts Tale, is ideal for children between the ages of 6 and 9. It is available at Plymouth Books & More in the Home Depot Plaza off Long Pong Road and Borders Book Store in the Kingston Mall. Arenstam will read from his book and sign copies at Books & More Dec. 1.