Moving MouseIllustrations by Jacquelyne Tooes Emma Whitehall
Elle winced as she heard her mum calling for her from downstairs.
“We’ve only got an hour left until we leave, sweetheart. Can you do one more check around your room, to make sure you’ve packed everything?”
Elle didn’t get up from her window seat, though; she just sat there, with her knees tucked under her chin, watching the moving people carrying huge, cardboard boxes into the back of their noisy, smelly van. There was a tight, anxious feeling in her chest, and she didn’t know how to make it go away.
Mum had found a new job – which was brilliant, because she hadn’t been very happy and sometimes called her boss rude names when she thought Elle and her brother Leo weren’t listening. But the bad part – the awful, worrying, scary part – was that the job was in a big city, miles and miles away. Which meant three very awful, worrying, scary things;
1 They were leaving Granny behind. She’d always lived just around the corner from Elle and her family – what if she missed them?
2 Elle and Leo would have to start a new school. Which meant new classrooms, a new way to walk to school and lots of new people – all things Elle Did. Not. Like. The city was so different to what Elle knew – what if it never felt like home?
But the worst one of all was;
3 No one else was worried!
Mum hadn’t stopped moving or talking on the phone for weeks, and Leo was actually excited! “Moving house, moving house, do do do do do moving house…” he sang, bouncing past Elle’s room and stamping his feet on the floorboards. “Come on, Elle! We need get ready!”
Elle supposed that Leo being happy about the move was because he was older than her – he was twelve, and Elle was only eight. Maybe these things got easier when you were older. Leo always seemed so grown-up to Elle. So confident. Not like her at all.
All the noise and the hurrying and thinking about the move just made Elle feel even more worried. She started to tap her foot on the wood of the windowsill – something she always did when the fears got too big. What if she hated her new home, and she always hated it, forever and ever?
“Hey! Mind where you’re stepping, please.”
Elle started, falling off the windowsill in her surprise. There, perched by the window, was a small mouse. He was light brown, with big black eyes and pale pink ears, like the inside of a seashell. But, what was more worrying for Elle was that this mouse was;
1 Talking to her,
2 Standing on his hind legs, and
Folding his arms and glowering in Elle’s direction.
“Um,” Elle said, “I’m sorry, I suppose.”
“Well,” the mouse said with a haughty sniff, “as long as you apologise sincerely, there’s no harm done. My name’s Yopi; and I hear we are moving mouse.”
“Moving…mouse?,” Elle said, sitting back on the sill next to the strange little creature she’d just met, “Do you mean we’re moving house?”
“No no no, that’s not right. You see, I’ve always lived with your family, and now you’re leaving this place to go live somewhere new. And so, I am moving with you. Moving mouse, you see. But,” Yopi said with a frown, “you do not seem to be very happy about it, Elle.”
“How do you know my name?”
“Like I said; I’ve always lived here. And I know what you look like when you are happy, and this –” Yopi waved her tiny paw in Elle’s direction, “this is not it.”
Well. No-one else was listening to Elle’s problems. She might as well tell a mouse. And so, she did. And as she spoke, Elle felt the strangest thing happening inside her. All her anxious-ness that had been bunched up tight inside her started to loosen and unravel a little in her chest. She felt better, even though she hadn’t solved her problems yet. It was nice to talk, and be listened to. And Elle knew Yopi was listening because he sat on the toe of her shoe as she jiggled her foot up and down, nodding in a sensible sort of way and saying “I see, I see…” every so often.
“Everyone else is really excited,” Elle said as she finished her story and wiped away a stray tear that was making its way down her cheek – “and I feel so silly, but I can’t stop worrying.”
“Worries are very normal,” Yopi said. “But we must learn the best ways to stop them becoming so very scary.” He chewed thoughtfully on Elle’s shoelace until she asked him politely to stop. “Aha! I know. We must talk to Granny.”
“You said you were concerned about leaving her behind – and so, we must make sure that Granny doesn’t feel abandoned. Where is your phone? Where is it? Quickly! We have much to do.”
“I didn’t know mice could be so bossy,” Elle muttered, as she hit the green Call button next to Granny’s name.
“Hello?” said the voice on the other end; warm and crackly and so full of love it made the tears start again in earnest, “Elle? What are you doing, darling – you’re moving today! Is everything alright?”
“Granny,” Elle said, wiping her face on her sleeve as the words came out in a huge rush, “I don’t want to leave you all alone! I’m going to miss you so much, we’ll barely ever see you again and I don’t want you to be lonely…”
“Oh, love,” Granny said down the phone, “it’s going to be alright! You’re not going to get rid of me that easily, you know.”
“No, silly! We can talk on the phone as much as you want – and I’ll even work out how to do video calls, so I can see your lovely face. And I talked to your Mum; she’s going out with some work people in a few weeks, and I said I’d come look after you and Leo for the night. Then I get to see your new home!”
“Oh!” Elle said with a sudden smile. Having Granny stay over while Mum went out was always fun; they made popcorn on the stove together and watched films together all night, which Elle always loved. Even Leo, who usually felt too grown-up for cartoons, joined in – and usually fell asleep first!
“So you’ve got something to look forward to now, haven’t you love?”
“And you know I love you lots and lots, no matter where I am, don’t you?”
“Yes, Granny. I love you too.”
As Elle said her goodbyes and hung up the phone, she realised she really did feel a little better. She was going to have a Granny sleepover really soon! She’d have to make sure everything was ready! She really hoped they sold popcorn in the city…
“Ah,” Yopi said, still at her feet, “you looked happy for a moment there, but now you look worried again.”
“We’re moving to the city,” Elle said, her foot started to tap nervously again. “Cities are huge! And noisy, and scary, and full of people I don’t know. What if I get lost? What if no-one likes me? What if I never learn how to get to school?!”
Just at that moment, Leo bounced past Elle’s open bedroom door; carrying a box labelled ‘LEO’S COMICS’ and whistling that same tune he’d been singing all week.
“Moving house, moving house, do do do do do moving house…”
“Perhaps,” Yopi said, getting in one last nibble of Elle’s shoelace before scurrying up onto her shoulder, “your brother could help with that particular problem.”
Elle gulped. Leo was so much older and cooler than she was – wouldn’t he just think she was being a big baby about all this?
But if she didn’t talk to Leo, she might just stay worried forever and ever.
“Leo?” Elle said, coming out of her room as her brother headed downstairs. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Only if the question is ‘can we listen to Leo’s playlist in the car?’ Because,” Leo said, sitting down on the top step, preparing to slide down on his butt, “the answer is yes.”
“No,” Elle said, her voice wavering – but no tears, not this time – “that’s not it.”
When Leo looked up at her, he was grinning – like he usually was. But then, when he saw her face, he stopped smiling. Elle thought for a second he was cross with her –
like the time she stole the last of his favourite cereal and hid the box under her bed so he couldn’t find it. But then he said, “are you okay?” and she knew he was actually worried.
“Talk to him!” Yopi whispered in her ear, tickling the back of Elle’s neck with his tail. Elle sat down on the step with her brother.
“Leo,” Elle said, “why do you want to move away? Don’t you like it here? We know where everything is here, and how long it takes to get home from school, and the quickest way to get to the shops. And in the city, we won’t have any of that! None of it at all! And I don’t understand why you’re so happy to leave.”
Elle looked down at her hands, her foot tapping harder than ever. They sat together like that for a long moment. And then, Leo said;
“But you know what they do have in the city?”
Elle shook her head, and Leo smiled.
“Really?!” Elle gasped. Yopi squeaked in outrage as he nearly fell off her shoulder, but Elle was too excited to notice. She loved the cinema – but there wasn’t one nearby, so most of the time she had to settle for whatever was on TV. She could go see brandnew films on the big screens at the cinema, and get real cinema popcorn!
“Yep. And an ice-skating rink, and a museum, and loads of other really cool stuff you
like. And guess what the school has?”
“What?” Elle said, leaning forward excitedly.
“A big, big library.”
“A library?!” The first school Elle went to right now was too small for its own library, and the books at the real one were old and boring.
“I saw it on their website,” Leo said. “Plus, there’s a map on there, too – so we can plan how to get to our new classrooms and stuff before we go. And you can see pictures of your teachers so you know what they look like! There’s tons of things we can do to get ready, and make it seem less scary.”
“Hm,” Elle said, thinking hard. She didn’t realise there were so many good things about the city. “Can we plan how we get to school from the new house, too?”
“Yeah!” Leo said. “We’ll do a few practice runs too, so we know how long it takes before we start. And I’ll go with you every time, okay?”
“Okay. That sounds good.” Elle leaned against her brother and felt him pat her on the head. “Thank you, Leo.”
“No problem. But now I have to go put my comics in the car. I don’t trust Mum to do it right. Okay see you later byeee!”
And he was gone.
“That was very courageous,” Yopi said, tickling Elle’s cheek with his whiskers. “I’m glad that you two talked.”
“Thank you,” Elle said. That tight feeling in her chest felt even looser, now.
“Guys!” Mum’s voice drifted up the stairs. “We have half an hour until we leave, okay? Has everyone checked their rooms?”
“Yeeees, Muuuuuum,” Leo yelled back, jumping down the last step. Elle stiffened. On her shoulder, Yopi tugged on her earlobe.
“You have one last person to talk to, little Elle,” he said. “Are you ready?”
Elle nodded. After sharing her worries with Yopi, and making plans with Granny and Leo, she was feeling brave. A little braver, anyway. Just enough.
Mum was out by the van, telling the removal people where to put the boxes. “Alright, now this is my good crockery, so please be careful, okay? Oh – Elle! Are you alright?
Have you checked your room over?”
“Mum,” Elle said, her back as straight as she could, “I need to talk to you about something.”
“Alright,” Mum said, fishing her phone out of her pocket as it began to ring, “but can it wait until we’re in the car, sweetheart –”
And then, it all came out in a rush.
“No sorry Mum but it can’t wait because I’m really worried about the move and you’ve been so busy I haven’t told you about being worried but now we’re about to go and I’m very very worried and I need to tell you about being worried right now not in the car,” Elle said, without stopping for breath.
“You said the word ‘worried’ four times in one sentence,” Yopi whispered in her ear. “I’m not cross, it was impressive. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go finish my own packing while you talk to your mum.”
Elle shivered as four tiny, ticklish paws ran down her arm, as Yopi jumped into the grass and was gone.
Mum paused. She looked hard at Elle. And then, she hung up the phone and sat down in the van.
“Come here and tell me all about it, sweetheart.”
So Elle climbed into her mum’s lap, just like she used to when she was small, and she cried and talked about all the things on her list that were still worrying her. But she also talked about what Granny had told her about making good plans, and how Leo had said they could walk to school together until she was sure where to go, and how all of that really had helped her feel less afraid. And, by the time she’d finished with all that, she was feeling much, much better. She really was. While she talked, Mum listened, and gave her a tight hug, just how she liked to be hugged.
“Do you want to know something, Elle?” she said, once Elle had finished speaking. “I’m really worried about the move, too.”
“Yes, I am. I have to work out how to drive to work without getting lost, and where the closest supermarket is. What happens if we get settled in, and I’ve forgotten something important – like toilet paper?!” Mum made a shocked face. “We’ll have to wipe our bums on Leo’s t-shirts.”
“Hey!” shouted Leo from the front door. “No we won’t!”
Elle laughed at that. “But,” Mum said, taking out her phone again, “Do you know what I’ve been doing? I’ve been making lots of lists on here, and I’ll use them to help me remember things, and feel less afraid, until we all get used to our new home together. Then, I won’t need them anymore.”
Elle did like lists.
“I think,” Mum said, “before we go, you should make a list of all the important things you need to remember before we leave. Then, you can tick them all off and feel happier about the move. Okay?”
Elle nodded, smiling at last. “Well done,” whispered Yopi, reappearing in time to hug her ankle tight. She stood up and ran back inside to find a piece of paper. “First on your list,” Yopi was saying, scurrying up her back and holding on to her hair as Elle ran up the stairs two steps at a time, “has to be ‘remember to bring Yopi along with you.’ And his little bed that’s under the sofa. And some seeds, for the journey. And a book, so you can read
“No you’re not.”
to me and I won’t get bored. I am moving mouse today, after all – I have to make sure everything goes smoothly and I have nothing to worry about. And another thing…”
Elle nodded, barely listening to her new friend. She had the perfect list in mind – but it wasn’t for her. No; she had decided she would make a list that she could share with other anxious people, so that they could make their moving experience as stress-free as possible. After all – she’d learned so much today!
Elle’s Questions for Making Moving House Simple and Stress-free!
What worries you about moving house?
What are you looking forward to the most about moving house? This can be a really huge thing, or just something small! 3
What do you wish an adult would tell you about moving? 4
What do you wish an adult knew about the move from your point of view? 5
What’s the most important thing you need to remember to pack? 6
What’s something you can pack to make the journey to your new house better?
Is there an animal friend moving with you? What can you do to make moving easier for them?