Mouse Mission, by Prudence Breitrose – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

51Nw6dacHlL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Mouse Mission, by Prudence Breitrose. Illustrated by Stephanie Yue.
NYC, Disney•Hyperion, October 2015, hardcover $16.99 (266 pages), Kindle $9.99.

Mouse Mission is The Mousenet, Book 3; the conclusion of the trilogy that began with Mousenet and Mousemobile (both 2013). To repeat the events in the first two books, 10/11-year-old Megan Miller learns that the mice of the world are as intelligent as humans, but are too small and fragile to create a civilization. They’re isolated in small groups; and they can’t be heard by humans unless they scream all the time. The mice learn that Megan’s uncle, Fred Barnes, is an electronic tinkerer who has invented a miniature computer just for his own amusement, but which would be ideal for mice to communicate with each other throughout the world; and with humans.

In the first two books, Megan and Uncle Fred become part of the Humans Who Know about the Mouse Nation, and the mice figure out how the five humans can mass-produce the Thumbtop computers, supposedly as toy keychains but actually for the mice to use. Megan’s uncle and step-dad, Fred Barnes and Jake Fisher, create their home-run Planet Mouse factory in Cleveland, ostensibly to manufacture only a tiny number of miniature computer toys, but actually with a secret assembly line of seven hundred mice making Thumbtops for mice all around the world.

One of the Humans Who Know is Megan’s mother Susan Fisher, who is an environmental activist. Breitrose unfortunately allowed Mousemobile to become very preachy about the danger of Climate Change, which the five Humans Who Know and all the mice are very passionate about. The message of Mouse Mission, Saving the Rainforest, is fortunately integrated into the plot much better.

Susan Fisher’s current environmental campaign is saving the rainforest that covers the fictional island-nation of Marisco in the Indian Ocean (a pastiche of Madagascar).

“This was one of the last forests on that part of the planet that was still completely wild, and it had been kept that way by the government of Marisco until recently, when a group of generals seized power. A month ago, mice had found a document on the generals’ computers – a document that revealed their plan to sell the rights to the forest to Loggocorp, a huge international timber company.” (p. 16)

Susan has been working with ex-President Pindoran’s government-in-exile in London, which has been in touch with rain forest experts through London University. They hope that together they can prevent the generals’ plan to sell off Marisco’s forest and maybe even restore the previous government. But Loggocorp has hacked into Pindoran’s computer to keep track of his plans to keep them from getting the forest, and they have learned of the forest experts including Susan’s plans to stop them. Loggocorp has hired some of the best computer hackers in the world to eavesdrop on the experts (including Susan’s and, through her, the mice’s secret e-mails), so nobody dares send e-mails any more. Worse, Loggocorp has hired one of Fred’s ex-acquaintances, an individual fired for hacking, to snoop around. A delegation of humans and mice go to London to coordinate with the forest experts in privacy – but Loggocorp is waiting for them.

“For the first time since they’d known him, Sir Quentin [a mouse] spoke in a rapid burst of MSL [Mouse Sign Language, which mice usually use to talk with humans], ending with signs simple enough for the humans to understand. Pointing to a watercolor painting labeled St. Paul’s Cathedral at Dawn. Pointing at an ear. Paw to lips. Hush. St. Paul’s Cathedral at Dawn is listening.

Now Sir Quentin was making the unmistakable signs for ‘Follow me!’ and he headed for the bathroom. With one last sign. Bring the Thumbtop that Jake had left on the coffee table.”

(The mouse had stayed behind in their hotel room when the humans had gone out to see London, and he was there when a man broke in and planted an electronic bug behind the painting. p. 92)

The Humans Who Know and the British mice hastily organize a fake Rising Sea Level Conference to disguise the meeting of rain forest experts, at Buckford Hall, the palatial but run-down estate of the Duke of Wiltshire, with ex-President Pindoran posing as a concerned sea level scientist from Fiji (where the islands really are threatened by rising sea levels). But Loggocorp infiltrates that, too. A lot of hugger-mugger ensues throughout the Duke’s estate, but every time it looks like Loggocorp is about to steamroller over the Humans Who Know, the mice devise a strategy to save the situation. Okay, it gets a bit juvenile – the Mousenet trilogy is written for 8- to 12-year-olds – but it’s satisfying to have the animals save the situation rather than to have the human children save it for them.

Mouse Mission will appeal to furry readers more than the usual talking-animal children’s fantasy because the animals are not supporting characters to the children. It’s the mice who advise The Humans Who Know. The Humans Who Know – three adults and two pre-teens – are all equal partners. The kids don’t run things, and there are several mice who are also equal in planning. The mice, whose squeaking language is impractical for humans, communicate with them by Mouse Sign Language where necessary, and by computer – the mice using Thumbtops and the humans using laptops — as soon as they can.

As Stephanie Yue’s cover shows, the mice don’t wear clothes since they have fur. Breitrose’s Mousenet trilogy is like Robert C. O’Brien’s Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH in this respect (and very unlike Don Bluth’s movie, where the rats imitated the humans as much as possible). They only use what they need. There are other more sophisticated touches, such as the mice taking advantage of the humans’ inability to tell an unclothed mouse male from a female. And Ken, the London mouse with a Cockney accent.

“‘Yeah, yeah, yeah,’ said Ken, climbing out of Jake’s pocket, where he’d been riding. ‘Lovely stuff. ‘This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.’ We all had to learn it. Shakespeare, innit? Richard the Second. But now we got a job to do. Right? Take a message to that Sir Brian about where them experts should be delivered, from the airport.’” (p. 88)

Mouse Mission is a satisfactory end to the trilogy, and is better than the message-heavy Mousemobile. This is another book recommended for furry fans with children more than for adult fans.

Fred Patten