Mabela the Clever

Mabela may be the smallest mouse in the village, but her father has taught her to be clever. And this cleverness comes in handy when the cat comes, inviting everyone to join the secret Cat Society. The mice line up, with Mabela at the front and the Cat at the back. They march into the forest, singing the secret Cat song and shouting FO FENG! Only clever Mabela realizes the Cat is up to no good!

  • 32 Pages
  • 10.75" x 8.5"
  • 9780807549032
  • January 2001

Buy from Albert Whitman

  • 9780807549049
  • March 2015

Other Places to Buy


  • Folklorist MacDonald retells this cautionary tale from the Limba people of Sierra Leone with a zesty panache present from the opening lines…From tone to pace, MacDonald’s choices here are right on the money: this is a cautionary tale that will be rip-roaring fun to tell, listen to, and act out. The father mouse’s words of wisdom bear reiteration, and the short song/chant demands repeating.

    - The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

  • The energetic text is trademark MacDonald written purely to be read aloud, and punctuated by a chant that invites children to join in. Coffey’s saturated acrylics depict a vaguely African anthropomorphized world where animals live in grass huts. Bright borders set off the text blocks, and occasionally frame a detail, such as a tiny tongue sneaking out to lick a delicate chop when the cat greets the eager mice.

    - Kirkus Reviews

  • Mabela, the littlest mouse, has been taught to be clever by her father. When that cat cooks up a scheme to trap the mice, it is up to Mabela to save herself and her friends. Will she remember her father’s words of wisdom in time? Tim Coffey’s illustrations defintely bring this African tale to life with bright colors and cute animals. I loved Mabela’s buckteeth.

    - Pick of the Lists, ABA

  • MacDonald’s spry retelling of an African folktale, in which a mouse imparts the importance of using all the senses, is alight with humor…Coffey plays up the comedy in his subtly exaggerated illustrations. Cat’s sharply angular face and elongated oval eyes make an amusing visual contrast to the plump, google-eyed, multi-colored mice.

    - Publishers Weekly

  • MacDonald’s retelling of this Limba tale is engineered for storytime success.

    - School Library Journal, starred reviews

Awards & Accolades

  • Pick of the Lists, ABA
  • A 2001 Parents' Choice Picture Book Silver Honor
  • Highly Commended Book–2002 Charlotte Zolotow Award Committee
  • Texas Library Association 2002 2 X 2 Reading List
  • Children's Literature Choice List 2002
  • Storytelling World Award-2002 Winner-Stories for Young Listeners
  • 2001 Aesop Accolade, American Folklore Society
  • 2003 Washington Children's Choice Master List


Common Core

RL.1.1,2,3,4,5,6,7,9 RL.2.1,2,3,4,5,6,7,9,10 RL.3.1,2,3,4,5,6,7,10


  • Accelerated Reader Points: 0.50
  • ATOS Level: 2.80