Monday, May 18, 2015
MMGM: The Orphan and the Mouse
So, while I might not have picked up THE ORPHAN AND THE MOUSE normally, when I saw it compared to Stuart Little and that it “reads like a classic,” I knew I had to try this one.
With a plot that is not only reminiscent of STUART LITTLE, but ANNIE as well, THE ORPHAN AND THE MOUSE is a gem I’m glad I took a chance on.
Here is the synopsis (from Amazon):
Can a mouse and an eleven-year-old girl be friends? When Mary, a mouse whose job it is to steal useful human items, and Caro, a lonely orphan, meet, it isn't under the best of circumstances. Mary has been attacked by a cat, and Caro must not be caught nursing a pest. Yet the two bond immediately. However, as a result of the incident, an exterminator is called, and Mary is blamed. She is left behind when her community, including her children, evacuates to a safer home.
Caro also finds herself in trouble when she asks too many questions about a baby who appears at the orphanage. With the help of a loner mouse named Andrew, who models himself on the great hero mouse Stuart Little and has learned to read, Mary, Caro, and a group of orphans embark on a page-turning adventure. They must expose baby-napping criminals, save Caro from being sent to a workhouse, help reunite baby Charlie with his mother, and make the orphanage a safe haven for mice for generations to come. Could it be that the key to all this is knowing how to read?
Set in 1949 and taking inspiration from E. B. White's Stuart Little, this heartwarming and exciting novel reads like a classic.
What I loved:
1. The 1940s setting. I am a huge fan of this time period, from the music to the movies to the fashion. Some of my favorite concerts I've attended are from this era, and I still can't believe my good fortune that I got to see the incredible Rosemary Clooney sing several years ago. So 40s fangirl that I am, I loved the slang and the feel of the time period.
2. A non-spunky main character. I found Caro, the human main protagonist, so relatable and endearing, from the backstory of losing her mother in a fire (and the scars, both physical and emotional it left), to her desire to be “good.” She’s unlike most typical plucky MG heroines, as she says about herself: “Too good…too studious, too obedient, too nice, even; entirely lacking in spunk.” I think ordinary kids will relate to her.
3. Stuart Little references and well-developed animal characters. I loved how Stuart Little was treated like a real mouse and a hero to the mice protagonists, Mary and Andrew. Even though their story didn’t follow the same lines as Stuart (that’s what I expected at first), Stuart was always at the forefront of their minds. And these animal characters were just as well-drawn and interesting as the human ones.
4. Multiple points of view. As I’ve said before on the blog, I’m not usually a fan of multiple points of view. But this one really worked for a number of reasons. One being that the author employed a more omniscient point of view, so dropping into different people’s (and animal’s) heads made sense. It also added to the old-fashioned feel of the book. Second, it allowed the reader to fear for Caro and Mary as we knew what the antagonists were planning.
5. Excellent antagonists. I’m of the opinion, although it is something I struggle with in my own writing, that the best, most compelling stories are the ones with the most interesting antagonists. Mrs. George, the head of the orphanage, is no Mrs. Hannigan. She has her own hopes and fears and is strangely sympathetic in her own way. Randolph, the mouse antagonist, while not so well drawn as Mrs. George (partly because he is off stage for most of the book), also has strong, believable motives.
I’m limiting myself at five, but there were so many more things I loved about this book: the wonderful ending, the lyrical language, the incredible kid sidekicks, and the friendships, both mouse and human. I could go on and on. THE ORPHAN AND THE MOUSE would appeal to fans of Desperaux and Stuart Little, and other classics about animals. Although I have to say, I think I like Orphan and the Mouse even better. It is a compelling and interesting story simply and well told.
By the way, I won’t be doing a post next Monday due to the Memorial Weekend. See you in June!
And I'm sorry I missed last week--I've been sick, but thankfully, am finally on the mend.
Have you enjoyed any books outside your normal genre lately?
If you're looking for Marvelous Middle Grade suggestions, check out Shannon Messenger's blog.