The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck

The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail coverMeet the smallest mouse in the Buckingham Palace mews. Brought to the mews in a sewing basket when his mother died, the little mouse knows almost nothing about his origins. Even his name, Mouse Minor (if you can call that a name), was given by his classmates rather than his family. More than anything else, he wants to know where he’s come from.

His journey to answer the questions of his past begins days before Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, when he’s accidentally caught in plain (human) sight wearing his school uniform. Though it’s true that a complex mouse society is constantly engaged in keeping the human world humming, human beings themselves are never to know. This essential┬árule of mousedom broken, Mouse Minor sets out to make his own way in London. A ride in a horse’s ear, a brief stint with the Yeomice of the Guard, and a botched kidnapping lead him at last to Queen Victoria herself, who really might know everything, and who suggests that the answers he’s seeking might be wrapped up in the biggest mouse secret of all.

The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail is an entertaining mystery adventure, but its real strengths lie in Peck’s use of language and his worldbuilding. Artful turns of phrase throughout are delightful for their own sake, while repeated phrases help to give flesh to Peck’s imagined mouse society. Mouse Minor serves as an able guide to his hidden mouse world, but the language does a lot, too, to communicate the traditions and assumptions that have grown up among this particular group of mice, as well as the shape of the relationship between mice and human beings. Highly recommended for language lovers, and those who enjoy a good mouse story.

Learn a bit about the prolific author behind the story, Richard Peck, or find other reviews from School Library Journal and Waking Brain Cells.

Sample the excellent audio version, narrated by Russ Bain.

Advertisements

Ten: Lost Things

Another of the best known Arthur stories is the search for the Holy Grail. This week’s Ten highlights other stories which focus on the search for something lost.

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
Sometimes things get lost on purpose.
Ella lives in a town founded by the creator of the famous pangram, “The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over the Lazy Dog.” When letters from the pangram start falling off the founder’s statue, the town leaders decide that any letter no longer appearing on the statue will also be removed from the town’s vocabulary. Continue reading

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

Escape from Mr Lemoncello's Library coverWouldn’t it be quite the experience to visit a state-of-the-art library? Where you can look up and see shooting stars, or try out hover ladders that fly you up to the top shelves? If you had an opportunity to be one of the twelve 12-year-olds that had a chance to stay over for a night before anyone else saw the library, would you try out? Not convinced? What if you knew that the library was full of games — arcade, interactive and the like — and you’d have first access to them all? Got your interest?

12-year-old Kyle likes playing games. In fact that’s just what he’s doing when a slight slip in his plans gets him grounded. Without access to any games at home, he figures that staying overnight at the new library and playing on the computer is better than nothing. He and eleven other lucky kids, including his best friend, Akimi, are chosen, and spend the night exploring and trying out the library’s features.

The next morning, Mr. Lemoncello’s hologram appears with an invitation to the ultimate game: to “escape” from the library using only what they find within the library. The winner will become the new spokesperson for Mr. Lemoncello’s game company.

Join Kyle, Akimi, and the other contestants in the race to find the clues to get out of the library. Use your knowledge of the Dewey Decimal system, and be ready for the challenges that some of the contestants take on in order to gain an advantage over the others.

While it may be tricky for younger readers who are still getting used to the Dewey Decimal system to understand fully, if you are looking for a good book that appeals to different age groups, this is one good candidate. Written like Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this book has a little bit of fun and mystery that will be sure to tickle the interest and curiosity of those who read it.

Take a look at some book reviews by: A Librarian’s Library, The Examiner, and Publishers Weekly.

Read another book review on Kidliterati, and be sure to follow the link at the bottom to Grabenstein’s Host Your Own Mr Lemoncello’s Great Library Escape Game kit!

Watch a book trailer:
http://bit.ly/1cQRZDW

A Tale of Two Castles written by Gail Carson Levine and illustrated by Greg Call

A Tale of Two Castles coverWhen Elodie sets out on her own at twelve, she knows that it will be at least ten years before she sees home again. The only apprenticeship her family can afford is the kind that Elodie will purchase with ten years of service. It’s a long time, but Elodie has a plan to make it pass in a flash: though her parents believe that they are sending their daughter away for a weaving apprenticeship, Elodie intends to apprentice with an acting troupe, and fill her years with adventure.

Unfortunately, Elodie learns too late that the ten-year apprenticeships have been abolished. In order to find a home and work for herself, she’ll have to either convince a master to take her on for a much longer apprenticeship, or find a way to pay for a shorter one. Enter Meenore the dragon, who needs an apprentice to announce ITs detective skills in the market, and perform other sundry tasks around the lair. Their first big case comes from the unpopular owner of one of the story’s two castles, the ogre Count Jonty Um, whose dog has disappeared. Though Jonty Um is kind and hospitable, the villagers hate and fear him, and the Count worries that something terrible has happened. When Elodie movies into the castle under the guise of a servant, she discovers that there is far more going on than the loss of an animal. Between Elodie’s acting and observation skills, and Meenore’s detective savvy, the pair soon has a list of suspects, from the handsome cat trainer in the village to the dreadful king who owns the second castle. But they may already be too late.

A Tale of Two Castles is a clever and satisfying story recommended for readers who enjoy fantasy-laced mysteries and twisted fairy tales.

Read other reviews at Miss Print and The Reading Fever.

Revisit the fairy tale that inspired A Tale of Two Castles (it may surprise you!).

Watch the trailer:

Ten: Vying for the Throne

Arthur demonstrated his claim to the throne but pulling Excalibur from a rock. Others’ paths to a throne (or its equivalent) have been a little more complicated. This week’s Ten looks at how a variety of characters have approached the challenge of winning a place at the top, whether facing curses, usurpers, or strings of bizarre tests.

A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix
Prince Khemri’s one of ten million princes responsible for keeping the Empire humming. Though his first experiences as an adult prince quickly teach him to moderate his opinion of himself, it turns out that Khemri is indeed a favourite of the Emperor, picked out as a top candidate for the throne. The job of proving himself the best suited of a galaxy full of princes raises questions, though, and leaves Khemri wondering whether the system he’s been raised to benefit from is really so great after all. Continue reading

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave coverIn a post-apocalyptic world, Cassie feels like she is the last human alive. When the alien mothership loomed closer towards Earth, no one could have predicted what was to happen. The first wave took away their lives, the second took away hope of reconciliation, the third left only the few (both lucky and unlucky) survivors, and the fourth is killing off most of those who have outlived the other waves. Now, on the brink of the fifth wave, anything could happen — nothing and no one can be trusted.

Among Cassie’s possessions is her M-16, a first aid kit, water, a diary, some tins of sardines, pictures and a stuffed toy bear. Though worn and ragged from years of being loved, the bear represents the promise that she made to her brother, and the reason she fights so hard to survive. Little does she know that she is being stalked by someone in the shadows.

Elsewhere is another survivor who, through a miracle, has also somehow survived through all four waves. Dubbed Zombie by his rescuers, he is ushered to the barracks amongst the other surviving children to become trained “military style” to fight the enemies: you either make it or you die trying. When his regiment succeeds in bumping up its ranking and finally takes action outside camp, they are in for a surprise when they learn who their real enemies are.

Suspenseful, mysterious and with hints of romance throughout, Yancey does a stellar job of interweaving the lives and stories of its characters. He leaves the reader speculating about the realities within our day to day lives; what if the world that we live in really isn’t what we think it is? What would you do if your life was endangered by another species?

See more reviews by: Wired, the New York Times, and Mrs. ReaderPants.

Read the interview between Entertainment Weekly and Rick Yancey.

The Metro Dogs of Moscow by Rachelle Delaney

The Metro Dogs of Moscow coverMeet JR, short for Jack Russell. He’s an embassy dog who travels with his human companion, a diplomat named George. Just as he is getting really comfortable with living in Dublin, he finds out that they are moving to Moscow. It is not too long after his arrival that he is already bored with his mundane life; he would really enjoy having more than just the short “walkies” George offers him. He wants to run freely like he did on the sea shores of Dublin.

One day, JR can’t stand it any longer and escapes from his home. While he manages to get home the first time, he begins to go out regularly. He befriends some of Moscow’s strays, who show him around town to see some of the museums and famous streets. Mostly they walk, but sometimes they jump on the subway to get around. All the while, rumours are spreading amongst the strays that an increasing number of them are missing. While his friends continue to be gracious in showing him around, even those in their close circle are going missing. He tries to help, but being a small embassy dog, JR is limited in what he can do — or so he thinks. Little does he know that he is the key to helping the strays of Moscow to cross their boundaries and rescue their friends.

Delaney’s book, inspired by real dogs that travel around Moscow, is a treat to read. Travel with JR among the streets of Moscow, and feast on the the foods and aromas within the city (especially the mouthwatering Kroshka Katroshka stuffed potato delicacies!).

See other book reviews by Quill and Quire , CM magazine and Shelf Elf.

Read a little more about the Moscow’s Metro dogs on Let’s Get Lost.