Hopper's Destiny: Mouseheart, Book 2

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Hopper's Destiny: Mouseheart, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Mouse vs. cats, humans in heroic, gory rodent saga sequel.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Young readers will probably pick up a few new vocabulary words from Lisa Fiedler's vivid narrative. They'll also learn about landmarks and local delights of Brooklyn, from the Brooklyn Bridge and the Nets to the transit system and cannoli.

Positive Messages

Hopper's Destiny is awash in positive messages: kindness, courage, selflessness, cooperation, family bonds -- the list goes on ... and on, at such clichéd and relentless length that the appealing characters are reduced to decoys luring kids toward moral lessons. Will be a deal breaker for some.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Always conflicted, Hopper tries to do the right thing and live up to his responsibilities. Rat warrior Firren and heir apparent Zucker are bold leaders trying to help their people. So, in his way, is the mysterious La Rocha. Ace the cat, who protects rodents instead of eating them, is both kind and street-smart. Many minor characters perform heroic acts, although some don't survive.

Violence

Violence is constant and vividly described, from exterminators battering mice to death to cats torturing and devouring their prey. There are numerous battles, skirmishes and sword fights in which characters are wounded or killed. Characters are imprisoned and kidnapped. The treacherous Felina murders two of the characters' sweet moms, and kids who are unaware that animal shelters routinely kill mother cats will find one of the relevant scenes especially upsetting. The scene from Book 1 in which Hopper's mom is snatched from her babies in the night to become snake food is frequently recalled; two of her children face the same danger.

Sex

Animal characters fall in love, get married, and have children. Being in love reveals itself mostly in awkward, goofy behavior.

Language
Consumerism

Many mentions of historic and present-day commercial entities, as well as sly references to others that will delight kids who catch them: the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, Samsonite luggage.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

In a memorable scene at a Nets game, Hopper gets hyperactive from slurping up too much spilled soda and stuffing himself on fallen junk food.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that as with Mouseheart, the series opener, Hopper's Destiny is an uneasy mix of cute characters, bold adventure, wisecracks, Brooklyn in-jokes, and real horrors, including murdered moms. There's also a raft of sermonizing about "nature," "the circle of life," and "sacrifice" as sweet characters fling themselves into the jaws of predators. Sibling rivalry and well-founded abandonment anxiety play a huge role in motivating characters.

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What's the story?

HOPPER'S DESTINY follows the events of Mouseheart, with young mouse protagonist Hopper and his friends quickly discovering that overthrowing Emperor Titus and his nefarious pact with cat ruler Felina has brought lots of new trouble: Between the hungry cats and the human exterminators, violent death lurks around every corner in the underground tunnels of Brooklyn -- and often finds its victim as the rodents struggle to rebuild their ruined homes. Meanwhile, Hopper's angry, power-mad sister Pinkie has created her own despotic empire, and their little brother, Pup, tired of being left out of the dangerous fun, turns to the dark side. When unexpected events separate Hopper from his friends and take him aboveground, he makes some surprising connections and savors the joy of eggplant parmigiana and cannoli -- all of which make him question whether this business of being the Chosen One, whatever that means, is worth the trouble. Meanwhile, the mystic sage La Rocha, believed to be a cockroach, watches over the events and issues cryptic messages.

Is it any good?

Appealing characters, humor, and heroism mix with relentless, horrific violence in this epic rodent saga. Expect many joyous or hilarious moments, such as when the rodents ride the subway or when Hopper, buzzed on junk food, discovers an unexpected talent for basketball. Some of the characters are surprising, such as a cat whose mission in life is steering the rodents he's supposed to kill into safer quarters. The characters who have abandonment and sibling-rivalry issues will resonate with many a kid. And Vivienne To's appealing illustrations bring heroes and villains alike to life.

Unfortunately, the story becomes less than the sum of its parts as these elements contend with constant gory violence -- from mice being splattered with shovels to a character's mother being killed in an animal shelter -- and glib, smarmy sermonizing as young Hopper tries to find his way: "And in that moment Hopper understood: this was the power of faith. Faith made it possible to face the unknown. Faith brought hope, and hope brought strength. What La Rocha provided -- to the elders, to the wanderers, and to Hopper, too -- wasn't magic or supernatural power ... it was inspiration. And inspiration was just another word for the desire to do something good and noble and important ... and believing you can."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about feeling abandoned. Is it easy to relate to stories about characters left all alone to fend for themselves? What did they do? What would you do if you were in their shoes?

  • Have you ever been to Brooklyn? Do any of Hopper's adventures make you want to visit the place?

  • If you were designing a new city and wanted it to be a nice place, what would you do? What would it look like? Who would live there? What would the rules be?

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