Saturday, January 6, 2018

Review: Word of Mouse by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

I rarely read middle grade books, especially now that there are no middle grade readers in my house. But every now and again one crosses my path that looks too cute to pass up. Patterson and Grabenstein's pun-tacularly titled Word of Mouse is one of those.

Isaiah is a mouse. But he's not just any mouse, he's a very special mouse. Together with his ninety-six siblings, he lives in a lab and has clearly been modified to be a rather spectacular specimen of mousehood, even if he is the smallest and youngest of his mischief (the name for a group or family of mice). He can read and communicate via computer. He can say a few words, very quietly, and he can mimic other animals. Oh, and he's blue. His fur is blue, one of the only colors mice can actually see. One day with his siblings, he breaks out of the lab but it turns out he's the only one who isn't immediately recaptured and returned. This is hard because he's not a very brave mouse and he's all alone as he navigates the suburbs, birds, cats, and humans out to get him. But when he meets a pretty girl mouse who sings, even though only boy mice are supposed to be able to sing, he learns that being brave isn't about never feeling fear, that family has always got your back, and that being different isn't a bad thing. With his newfound bravery and the help of his friends and family, he determines to rescue his siblings from the evil lab.

This was in fact a cute book about embracing difference and taking chances. Its unusual mouse main character, who narrates his own tale, is sweet if occasionally a little overt in imparting the lessons he's learning. There are inconsistencies in what Isaiah, who has never been outside the lab before, knows and doesn't know thanks to his laboratory upbringing but these can mostly be ignored to go with the story flow. Complimenting the text, Isaiah's exploits are rendered beautifully in drawings by Joe Sutphin and his narrow escapes, in paragraph and picture will surely delight middle grade readers who will also happily absorb the moral of the story: "We're all different. It's the only thing we have in common."

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