Monday, March 26, 2018

The mouse with the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck illustrated by Kelly Murphy

For every human on earth, there's a mouse with the same job. This is well understood, unless you're a human.

It seems like an odd dichotomy - Richard Peck and award winning US author - writing an utterly British story set during the celebrations of the 1897 Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Our little hero mouse lives in the Royal Mews. He is small so everyone asks : "are you not yet fully grown, or just short?"  His tail is in the shape of a question mark. Is this significant? He has no name and this is deeply troubling. Perhaps the Queen herself can provide answers.  For now, he has to be content with the name Mouse Minor.  His Aunt Marigold is a fine seamstress. She makes Mouse Minor wonderful school uniform but unfortunately every day at The Royal Mews Mouse Academy is sheer torture. As graduation day nears Mouse Minor runs away from the school bullies and he find himself on the rough ground of the riding school for royal children. This is his first mistake - being in the human world. Then he is seen in his uniform by Princess Ena of Battenberg. Being seen, in his uniform no less, is his second mistake.

Now Mouse Minor really is on the run. He is befriended by a cat and a horse called Peg. The Sargent Major of the Yeomice of the Guard enlists his services and he meets Yeomouse Ian.

"He was very grand indeed, was Ian. Not handsome - far from it really. His profile wasn't stirring, but he had that weak and peaky look about the face and under the chin that is the badge of the English upper classes. ... He seemed to be kindness itself, in his lordly way."

As the pace builds Mouse Minor finds his way to the Queen herself and discovers the very surprising truth about his identity.

You can listen to the whole book here read by James McCourt - he has the perfect accent for this very British story. Read this review for more plot details. I would follow this book with The Tale of Despereaux, The Mouse and the motorcycle, Secrets at Sea, Bless this Mouse, Mouseheart, Word of Mouse and A Rat's Tale.

I read this book in one sitting. It would make a good family read-aloud.  If you are a fan of books like The Borrowers you will enjoy all the small details about the ingenuity of the mice adapting human objects to their own purposes such as the desks at the school made from twelve inch rulers.

This mouse-sized identity quest sparkles. Kirkus

Readers will gleefully suspend disbelief as they trace Mouse Minor’s exciting journey, which draws him to a life-altering revelation and surprise reunions with friends and foes Publishers Weekly

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