From the opening paragraph this brilliant book simply sparkles with magic and adventure – unsurprisingly, for those of us who have followed Deborah Abela’s writing career for years!
My first encounter with this joyful creator was when, as the organiser of an extravaganza showcase at Marrickville Library, way back around 2004, I invited Deborah )who had just hit the kid lit lists with her Max Remy serie) to be our special guest for the kiddos. She was a huge drawcard then – and still is!
Your readers of such books as Inkspell and Pages & Co are going to flip out about this one. It has everything needed to enthrall and excite middle graders: a reluctant and self-doubting hero, a feisty girl to organise things, a sweet guardian, a nasty villain, a dubious pillar of society with a very strong-minded daughter – and a completely endearing pet mouse who will steal everyone’s heart – all tied up in a world of literary magic like no other.
Arlo Goodman has lived with his uncle Avery, in the bookshop, since his mother was tragically killed in a hit-and-run accident. When bolshie Lisette, runs into the shop and promptly hides from a particularly intimidating pursuer, Arlo’s quiet – and rather dull – existence is suddenly turned upside down. It appears his mother has left him a grimoire – a mysterious book in which the stories written are magically realised – and his own story is to help understand just how brave he truly is. Lisette’s grandmother has also died, under terrible circumstances, and now the girl’s inherited ability to magically write the stories of the grimoire is being sought by wealthy and sinister business tycoon, Marcellus, via his brutal henchman, Silas.
Mystery and adventure, humour and pathos all mix together to create this abundantly glorious new narrative from one of middle schoolers’ favourite writers. I, for one, would like to see more adventures from Arlo, Lisette and Herbert – just saying!. Congratulations Deborah on another superb read! Highly recommended for your kiddos from around Year 4 to Year 7.
Read more about Deborah’s wondrous writing during lockdown here and if you are a Sydneysider, get thee to the Glee party!
I have mentioned before my penchant for books with mouse characters and this is no exception. A delightful and sweet story in rhyme about a family of little mice sisters who love to bake and love to shop at the Sunday market. It’s no fun being the ‘baby’ of the family sometimes as Cecile finds out when she is always left at home because she is too young to keep up. Determined to prove to her parents and older sisters that being little is no bar to being talented, Cecile concocts a plan and bakes batch after batch of beautiful pies.
And indeed when her delicious delicacies win over the heart of the Queen herself there is such rejoicing in her family that there is no doubt she will never be left behind again. “Great things can come from the smallest of us.”
This book is a charmer in every aspect: from its lovely textured hardcover to the winsome illustrations in pastel palettes surrounded by effective use of white space to the easy and flowing rhyme.
It would not only make a wonderful read for those emerging readers with a little more ability and confidence but a super read-aloud particularly for girls.
Highly recommended for young readers from around 6 and up.
I am an unashamed devotee of books with mouse characters – Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, The Tale of Desperaux, Mouse Mansion, Stuart Little, The Churchmice and of course the Redwall series – so this newly discovered title was a complete delight to me.
Mouseheart is the first in an ongoing series by Lisa Fiedler, who has written several children’s novels.
Set under Brooklyn in a subterranean labyrinth of tunnels and forgotten human debris, an explosive and epic battle rages between species.
Hopper is an ordinary pet shop mouse or so it seems. When he and his siblings are faced by becoming a pet python’s breakfast they mount an escape which leads to them all separately finding their way underground to the scene of this conflict.
Along the way, Hopper is caught up in the schemes and subterfuges of the ruling Romanus rats who themselves are dominated by cats who outwardly appear to be ‘tamed’ and then snared in the crossfire between these and the Müs led by the mysterious La Rocha. There is a very eerie parallel to the Holocaust in the actions of the despotic Titus, Emperor of Romanus which is compelling and awful.
Far from being just an ordinary rodent, Hopper discovers both his heritage and his destiny and is transformed from a nervous and naive youngster into a clever and capable warrior.
This strongly appeals to me with its glorious characters and intricate backstory and plot so reminiscent of the epic Redwall series.
Proving that courage is worth more than deceit, Hopper is a hero worth sharing with your readers of middle school age. As Gandalf would say “I’ve found it is the small things, everyday deedsof ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay.”
Read more about the series and listen to an audio excerpt at Fiedler’s website.
Highly recommended for your lovers of stirring adventures and the quest to best the doers of evil.
On the 3rd Day of Christmas my true love gave to me…
An amazing mouse! and a very sweet book……..
Allen & Unwin Australia
“Waste Not, Want Not” is a maxim well-known to those of us raised by parents who themselves grew up in the Depression years. And it’s a principle with just as much import in our modern disposal consumer-driven society.
When a king buys a length of sumptuous red velvet to have a cloak made for his daughter’s Christmas present, it is not just the Princess who receives a beautiful present. After each character has ‘snipped and sewed’ to make a special gift, beginning with the palace seamstress, the leftover scraps of fabric are put outside the back door, where another character comes along and is thrilled with the unexpected bounty. As Milly (mouse) finds the last tiny scrap of red fabric, she knows it is just enough to make little Billy a cosy scarf for Christmas.
Proving that one person’s trash is another’s treasure, the one swath of fabric makes five Christmas presents for some very happy recipients.
As a delightful contrast to our fine Australian Christmas books, this is typically English with snow, holly, badgers, squirrels, thatched roofs and smoking chimneys. It would make a super comparison text for young children exploring customs, climate and culture, broadening their view of the world in a simple, gentle story.
When this fabulous offering arrived in my package on Thursday I immediately knew that Small and I would love it – both being mouse aficionados (today we went shopping for a new little mouse – now called Mousey Two, in honour of a lately departed dear friend). I restrained myself nobly from reading it until last night’s sleepover so that we could both explore it together.
What a wonderful experience we shared! From the stunning endpapers of the interiors of mouse circus caravans to each wonderful illustration – the ooohs and aahhhs gained momentum with a climatic gasp of wonder at the amazing fold out centre pages with a detailed view of the interior and exterior busyness of the Circus Roberti big top.
No doubt some of you will be already familiar with the first two books but I had only briefly glimpsed the second – Sam and Julia at the Theatre – and am now completely and utterly hooked.
Julia and Sam both live in the Mouse Mansion – with many other families. They are the best of friends and like so many others, complement each other’s personalities. When the Circus Roberti comes to town, the Ringmaster needs someone to sew and cook for the circus’ summer season. Julia’s mum applies for the job successfully and she and Julia set off on a circus adventure that brings a wealth of new experiences for them both. Julia misses Sam very much but they write letters to each other so that each knows all about the other’s daily life.
Essentially an illustrated chapter book in picture book format, this is a true joy and readers will spend many happy hours poring over each page finding all the miniature marvels within. To understand the context of these books and their setting, you must find out more about Karina Schaapman and the Mouse Mansion. If, like me, you are especially fond of dollhouses, miniatures and the like – and mice – your instant thought will be ‘I want one!’ and the next thought might be – ‘How can we build our own?’.
A full page at the end describes Karina’s creation of the Mouse Mansion faced by a full-page illustration of this wondrous 3 metre high dwelling – do spend some time to investigate, I know you won’t regret it!
Small and I LOVE this immensely and I know we will continue to explore it’s delightful presentation with rapt scrutiny. I will not be at all surprised if we are reading it again tonight!