Dr Frances Willmoth tells us about her book Astronomouse, a tale of the mice who inhabit the Greenwich Royal Observatory, a new addition to Readathon’s extensive selection of books for children in hospital.
20th March 2017
Living with a long-term illness, I know all too well how tedious it can be for anyone to have to spend time confined to a hospital bed. There’s a good reason why patients are called “patients”! – patience is essential at all times, as people often have nothing to do but wait for things that might or might not happen. The days can seem very long, and it’s easy to lose track of what’s going on in the outside world, or, indeed, to believe that the outside world exists at all, as one’s horizons swiftly reduce to the four walls of the wards.
Therefore I have a huge amount of sympathy with Readathon’s aim of bringing books and story-tellers to children in hospital. Not only can Readathon help pass the time pleasantly for young people who may have much that’s unpleasant to contend with, but it does so by enabling their imaginations to wander in different realms altogether, encountering the world as it is, or was, or might have been, or might be one day.
I first became acquainted with Readathon through a cousin of mine, who worked for them a while back. More recently, the same friendly cousin has been encouraging me as I’ve ventured to publish a small book of my own for children: Astronomouse. After spending my academic career as a science historian producing some solid tomes that would be read by relatively few people, I thought it was time I wrote something entertaining that might be enjoyed by a wider audience. Astronomouse was also a way of making the history of the Observatory accessible to children and to a non-academic audience of all ages.
While I was contemplating what it must have been like to live on the top of Greenwich Hill during the creation of the Observatory, a dose of inspiration supplied by Graham Oakley’s splendid “Church Mice” books led me to imagine life for a group of mice at this extraordinary time. So Astronomouse follows the story of mice living on Greenwich Hill, from their first discovery that humans are planning to tear down their present home (already a ruin) to their experience of moving into the new building. When they eventually arrive there, they appoint their own “Astronomouse Royal”, a young mouse called Celestine.
I hope that the first Astronomouse, Celestine, and her friends will help children in hospital to enjoy the wonders of the splendid Royal Observatory and the history of astronomy from their hospital beds. To find out more about Astronomouse, visit Frances’s website, www.astronomouse.com.