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Gripping, gory mouse adventure may be too dark for some.

What parents need to know

Educational value

There's more action than education here, but young readers will pick up a few bits of lore along the way: the Latin word for mouse is an important plot element, and a cat who loses an eye becomes the butt of Cyclops humor. Kids will enjoy cheering Hopper on as he learns to read and decipher subway maps, and may acquire a few skills of their own as a result.

Positive messages

Strong messages about courage, selflessness, protecting your loved ones and all those who need defending.

Positive role models

Being young and confused, Hopper is sometimes led astray by smooth-talking evildoers, but even when he does the wrong thing it's for the right reasons -- because he wants to protect defenseless innocents, such as his brother, Pup. His sister, Pinkie, is more than a little full of herself, but also utterly fearless. Rat prince Zucker proves a steadfast friend, even when Hopper misinterprets his intentions. Several characters are profoundly influenced by their late mothers, who taught them well and were foully murdered.


The opening scene features a rat gouging out a cat's eye. In an early scene, Hopper's sweet mother is snatched away from her babies in the dead of night, presumably to be fed to a snake --  the fate that awaits the young mouse hero and his siblings, brave but bratty Pinkie and innocent Pup. Violent deaths  abound, including those of other characters' beloved mothers, as a despotic ruler holds power by sending his luckless victims off to be killed by vicious cats. In one such incident, the mice rise up against their feline attackers, and some die; entire families including terrified babies are frequently in danger of being killed by ruthless predators.


One of the rats, Marcy, has an obvious crush on Zucker. Zucker is smitten with the girl rat who leads the resistance.

Not applicable

As Hopper and his friends make their way through the subterranean world beneath New York City, they encounter the occasional brand name, e.g. a pennant for the 1955 Dodgers.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

At a banquet, Hopper nibbles on a fermented grape and gets a bit tipsy.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Mouseheart, the first volume of Lisa Fiedler's new animal-adventure series, has a charming, well-intentioned hero in young Hopper the mouse, but it may be too upsetting for sensitive kids. The opening scene features a rat gouging out a cat's eye. Kids traumatized by the violent killing of Bambi's mom will find plenty more of the same here, starting with the early scene in which the young hero's sweet mother is snatched away from her babies in the dead of night, presumably to be fed to a snake -- the fate that awaits Hopper and his siblings, brave but bratty Pinkie and innocent Pup. As the story progresses, violent deaths (including those of other characters' beloved mothers) abound, as a despotic ruler holds power by sending his luckless victims off to be killed by vicious cats. In one such incident, the mice rise up against their feline attackers, and some die. 

Parents say

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What's the story?

First their beloved mom, crying out plaintive last words, is snatched away by the tail in the dead of night. Then young mice Hopper, Pinkie, and Pup learn that the only reason they're in the pet shop is to be fed to snakes. They plan an escape, but very little goes according to plan. Hopper finds himself plunged into the underground world beneath New York City, where he meets rat prince Zucker, encounters one mystery after another, and faces many betrayals as the underground empire's secrets emerge.

Is it any good?


Adding a rodent-themed entry to the popular genre of animal adventure epics, Lisa Fiedler's MOUSEHEART is a lively, imaginative tale with a well-meaning, believably confused hero. But if you're expecting sweet, lighthearted fare along the lines of Richard Peck's mouse sagas, beware: Things are much darker in this story, which begins with a rat gouging out a cat's eye, and mouse children's mother being snatched away to her death, crying out to her babies.

It's the first volume in a planned series, and by the time it ends many helpless innocents, including beloved parents and terrified infants, face violent death, and many are killed. Nasty political intrigue, secret murders, and dark deals abound. Some kids will enjoy being steps ahead of young Hopper as he solves mysteries and makes remarkable discoveries; others may be done in by the gore and traumatic loss.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about stories in which animals play roles more commonly associated with humans, such as soldiers, kings, and servants. What's the appeal? 

  • Do you think it makes a story better when terrible things happen to the hero's loved ones? What other stories do you know where this happens, and how does it change the hero's life?

  • Hopper has a hard time figuring out who's lying to him and who's telling the truth. Have you ever had this problem in your life? How did you deal with it?

Book details

Author:Lisa Fiedler
Illustrator:Vivienne To
Topics:Adventures, Brothers and sisters, Cats, dogs, and mice, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Margaret K. McElderry
Publication date:May 20, 2014
Number of pages:320
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 12 years old July 1, 2016

Great story, very mysterious.

This story has nothing innapropriate. But it does describe some brutal battles and mild violence. No swearing. Mouseheart is a great story packed with adventure and lots of personal growth. Lisa fielder put so much thought into this book. I think it gives kids a push to be curious, and stand for what they believe in. It gives kids courage. Heroic Hopper the mouse sets out with utopian rat Zucker, to unlock the secrets of the three mysterious kingdoms and to find his two other siblings, pinkie and pup. Hopper learns so much throughout the story about the father he never met, and especially, the hero he never met, which turns out to be someone he's known for a very long time-himself.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence


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