The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail Book Poster Image
Swashbuckling adventure of mouse in Queen Victoria's court.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Younger kids will just love the story; older kids with an interest in British history and the ways of royalty will enjoy both the mouse's-eye view of Victoria's court and the frequent, often subtle references to historic events.

Positive Messages

Bravery and persistence are rewarded in our small hero's search for his name and destiny. Friends and allies appear in the strangest of places; doing your job as well as possible is much respected.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Besides our intrepid young hero, most of the characters, including many who terrify him, turn out to be benign and helpful. His Aunt Marigold, who's tried to raise him right while working as a seamstress, his friend Ian the aristocratic mouse, and Queen Victoria herself offer plenty of good (if sometimes comic) example. Even a cat turns out to be unexpectedly helpful.

Violence & Scariness

Our nameless hero gets in scuffles with the school bullies and, like all the other students, is terrified by their teacher's vivid lectures on the French Revolution and the guillotine. He also faces many perils and often imagines being devoured, but the treatment is lighthearted, and the actual danger small.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Newbery Award winner Richard Peck returns to the court of Queen Victoria, visited in his Secrets at Sea, for another highly entertaining confection in The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail. Kelly Murphy's cute, expressive illustrations (some in full color) add appeal and help tell the story of the nameless mouse searching for his identity and destiny. There are frequent, humorous references to poop (horse, mouse, etc.) and encounters with gross substances (the mouse complains about being coated with wax after hiding out in the ear of a horse) as the tale proceeds, and our tiny hero is often in peril (or so he imagines). In-jokes and historical tidbits will delight older kids and give reading-aloud adults the giggles.

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What's the story?

A young orphan mouse growing up on the fringes of Queen Victoria's court has a number of challenges, from his tiny stature to the fact that ever since he was a baby, no one will tell him what his name is, or if he even has one. As both human and rodent members of the royal household prepare for the Diamond Jubilee, THE MOUSE WITH THE QUESTION MARK TAIL decides that only the monarch herself can tell him his name and his destiny.

Is it any good?

The team of Richard Peck and Kelly Murphy tends to be a pretty good recipe for light, appealing stories with something to engage kids of different ages, and their parents. The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail is no exception, following its nameless but intrepid hero's fast-moving adventures with sly humor, sweetness, and never a dull moment. While Secrets at Sea appealed more to girls, Mouse reaches out to boys with plenty of pint-sized swashbuckling, from the Queen's carriage horse to the Yeomice of the Guard. Not to mention numerous references to poop and other disgusting substances.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can discuss the illustrations in The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail. How do you like them? Do you think pictures are important in telling a story?

  • Why do you think stories about mice have been so popular over the years? What other mouse stories have you read, and how do they compare with this one?

  • What do you think of the idea that for every human who's doing a job, there's a mouse doing the job better? What do you think life would be like for the mouse doing your job?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love humor and adventure

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