A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
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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.
Talk to your kids 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?
- Author: Lisa Fiedler
- Illustrator: Vivienne To
- Genre: Adventure
- 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
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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