Word of Mouse
I confess to the fact that I have never read James Patterson. I’ve read and enjoyed Grabenstein; on both accounts I enthusiastically opened WORD OF MOUSE. Isaiah mouse is blue, bold and, unbeknownst to him, brave. He lives with his 96 siblings in the Horrible Place, where the Long Coats keep the mice caged, performing all manner of illegal experiments. The mice mutate in many ways; they have colored coats and gain various skills --- Isaiah can read. A daring escape attempt results in the recapture of every mouse but Isaiah; he flees, intent on finding a way to free his siblings from Lamina Laboratory.
"WORD OF MOUSE tells the reader many things; it is an ingenious story, endearing, thought-provoking, and in many ways, necessary in today’s world. This may be my first read by this duo, but it will certainly not be my last. "
Once outside, adventures abound. Forced to fend for himself, Isaiah feasts at a garbage can, but soon must defend his position on the summit of “Mount Breakfast Buffet” when angry rats attempt to oust him. “Gifted and talented” Isaiah quickly devises a clever way to escape. After a series of unfortunate events with a “devil cat” named Lucifer, an apple pie-baking lady whose mean words hurt Isaiah more than the rolling pin she flings at him, and an interlude with a garbage truck’s “mystery meat” that makes Isaiah gag (who knew mice have such delicate palates?), Isaiah finally finds some good luck. He is befriended by kind mouse Mikayla, who announces to her family that Isaiah is “sort of an orphan and sort of lost. He has an earring and his fur is blue. Deal with it.” Just like that, Isaiah has a new family to help him on his quest.
Isaiah is on a hero’s journey; he and his adoptive family brave many dangers in their efforts to free the lab mice from the clutches of the Long Coats. In a shocking discovery, Isaiah realizes that the house which the mice use to forage for food is owned by none other than the nefarious Mop Man from the laboratory, and although Isaiah is terrified of the “very bad man,” he musters his courage, creativity and superior smarts to devise a plan to use Mop Man to gain access to the lab. Isaiah’s good luck persists; he makes another friend in Hailey, a neighbor girl who understands the pain of being bullied and victimized. With the help of Hailey and over 200 mice buddies, how can Isaiah’s plan go wrong?
Happily, the good guys save the day in this delightful story. Along the way, profoundly teachable moments remind readers of the value of friendship, kindness, tenacity and courage, even when the going gets rough. Isaiah’s thoughts are gentle lessons in empathy; he tells us, “Between you and me, I don’t really enjoy knowing that there are people in the world who hate me even though they don’t even know me.” Metaphor-rich epigraphs at the start of each chapter should be paid special attention; Isaiah’s quotes remind us of truths such as “All of us are given gifts. How we use them is up to us.” Creative, humorous wordplay teaches vocabulary (Isaiah’s is quite impressive), homonyms and homophones, with nods to current culture and history…always in context, never pedantic or preachy. The authors did manage to keep Isaiah’s feet on the ground; he isn’t perfect…after all, he did not know what bacon is!
WORD OF MOUSE is a cleverly developed story which taught me facts (mice are one of five mammals able to carry a tune) and made me feel (mice, unlike humans, are mammals which always take in strangers). It affirms the necessity of helping others, and the responsibility each of us has to be a defender of good. Isaiah’s ability to teach, not preach, through his thoughts, choices, behaviors --- to share true, complex, often ambivalent emotions with the reader --- provides a basis every child can relate to when faced with the ethical and moral challenges of growing up in a complicated world. Isaiah’s first-person (or should I say mouse?) narration is the perfect choice to teach empathy. This is a near-perfect story with a pitch-perfect character in Isaiah, an underdog hero in whom I believed utterly and completely, and that’s saying something for a book about a blue mouse who can read, write by dancing on a keyboard and speak in metaphor.
When discussing what is “normal,” Isaiah challenges, “Yes…Isn’t different wonderful?” You bet it is, Isaiah, and WORD OF MOUSE is nothing short of wonderful from first page to last. Isaiah admits he can read, saying, “Those are words…Words tell you things.” WORD OF MOUSE tells the reader many things; it is an ingenious story, endearing, thought-provoking, and in many ways, necessary in today’s world. This may be my first read by this duo, but it will certainly not be my last. Dare we hope for a sequel? This reader feels that Isaiah has much, much more to say. Extremely highly recommended for Homo sapiens of every age.
Reviewed by Donna Rasmussen on January 3, 2017