Michael Schildcrout’s family has been crafting and sharing stories since he was a child. His older brother began the tradition, telling Michael tales of two intelligent mice named Mousie and Topsie. Michael later adapted the stories and passed them down to his younger sister Nicole. In his version, there existed a community of intelligent mice who lived in Mouseville, home to two male twin mice named Mousie and Lousie and their female twin cousins Topsie and Woupsie.
While Michael’s siblings moved on to other interests after childhood, Michael never stopped telling stories of the mouse family. Finally, at age 72, Nicole, who worked for 25 years in children’s publishing, convinced him to write the book “The Adventures of Mousie and Lousie.”
A children’s book comprised of 15 stories, the plot follows the two sets of twin mice on myriad adventures. Their friend Professor Ushgloshkiss Vernes is a character who loves working with the mice from Mouseville; he sends them on adventures to Mars, the moon and beyond with the help of his gadgets and inventions.
Michael describes the professor as “an eccentric genius who seems absent-minded at first.” The professor is entirely his own creation and has many similarities to the author himself.
Michael has been a longtime resident of Wingate at Worcester, a skilled nursing facility in Worcester, Mass. after he never fully recovered from a heart surgery that left him too weak to live on his own. While he now spends most of his time on a respirator with limited speaking ability, his mind is constantly active.
“Michael is a very clever, wonderful person,” said Nicole. “Writing is a release for him.”
In addition to writing, he enjoys reading, playing chess and watching sports. He can often be found playing chess with Bob Boylan, Wingate at Worcester’s head of respiratory therapy.
Michael contracted polio at age 12 while living in The Bronx. He was one of the last people in New York to be diagnosed with the disease before the vaccine became available. Following the diagnosis, he underwent four operations and was forced to recover at home, missing school. It was during this time that he told Nicole stories of the mice.
Despite his health challenges, Michael went on to earn a doctorate in physics from the University of Pittsburgh and spent his adult life working with Naval Intelligence.
Able to communicate by primarily using a keyboard, Michael’s love for learning and engagement did not stop once he arrived at Wingate at Worcester. He joined a writing group and received encouragement from the group members to pursue the book. “This is something he always wanted to do,” said Nicole. “He had the strength of mind to persevere.”
Michael does not let his health block his passion. “I enjoy using my imagination,” he said. “That is something you can do with children’s books where anything is possible, no matter how hard it is.”
“As my condition deteriorates, writing becomes harder,” Michael said. But his affinity for creativity inspires him to continue writing. His second book, “Mousie and Lousie Return to Mouseville” will hit shelves soon.
Whether it’s his last book or not, there’s no doubt his imagination will continue to dream up wonderful adventures of the mice, and perhaps new characters as well. The power of Michael’s passion is inspiring to many and Worcester is honored to be part of his life.