'Mousenet': marketed at children, meant for everyone, reviewed by a furry
It may come off as an unpleasant surprise for some of you, to see a review of something two years old submitted only now. But, as the old saying goes, better late then never!
Mousenet by Prudence Breitrose is something of an oddity, for it is truly a book for all ages. As long as the idea of a child protagonist and cute little mice does not turn you off, you will enjoy the story, no matter your age. Actually, a good thing to compare this story to would be The Rescuers, an obscure little movie from the 70s you have probably never heard of.
The story concerns itself with mice, which is sort of obvious. But these mice are not ordinary; they have evolved. Though it is implied the computer technology of the humans (that's us, by the way) helped, the fact remains that the mice of the book have gained quite a lot of intelligence recently, to the point of creating a worldwide mouse society, with standardized sign language, culture and social order. And the mice have taken a liking to the Internet, creating the titular Mousenet in the depth of our Internet. Unfortunately, mice can only use computers while we are away or asleep, and operating huge keyboards with tiny paws is cumbersome and hilarious, as described.
On the other side of the plot, an inventor named Fred invents the world's tiniest laptop. He intends it to be a novelty, something to be put in a museum of useless but amusing things. The mice however, see it as an opportunity...
Illustrated by Stephanie Yue, Disney-Hyperion, February 2013, hardcover $12.97, paperback $7.19, Kindle $6.83, 416 pages.
The story proper deals with Fred's niece named Meghan, her new family and the Mouse Nation's attempt at establishing relations with her, through highly trained mouse ambassadors. They plan on using Meghan to convince her uncle to mass produce the tiny laptops (lovingly named thumbtops) for the mice.
That is the book's premise, and without spoiling many other things, and ruining the reading experience for everyone, let me tell you why I loved Mousenet to pieces. First of all, the author, Prudence Breitrose, does not talk down to you. At all. The language may be simple, but that is only to make it accessible to children. Simple is definitely not stupid here.
Second, the relations and dialogue between Meghan and everyone else is natural and believable. There is a subplot involving the girl adjusting to living with a stepmother, while her biological mother is away on a job. A bad story would get into the MISUNDERSTANDING nonsense that bogs down good stories. But not here; the stepmother is a very nice person, and Meghan grows to like her very quickly. There is also a "green" message in the book, but it is not the main focus, and fits very naturally with the main plot of intelligent mice trying to manufacture tiny computers.
But my most favorite thing about the book is definitely the relation between Meghan and the mice. In stories created since the dawn of time, animals would usually help the protagonist in time of need. There were the kind ants in "The Story of Psyche and The Cupid" (from The Golden Ass) who helped her sort the grain. There was the wise talking horse from the tale of Ivan and the Firebird. And who can forget the helpful mice from Walt Disney's adaptation of Cinderella?
Well, as a breath of fresh air, the mice are not here to help the little girl deal with a cruel stepmother (who is established as the nicest woman this side of Baltimore). No, in this story the girl and the mice both have some problems, and the two agree to work together to help one another. Also, a valuable thing to note would be the masterful separation of importance between Meghan and the mice. Neither side is more interesting, neither side bogs down the story; both the Mouse Nation and the humans are equally interesting, and Prudence deserves some applause for pulling that off.
Last, but not least, I want give some praise to Stephanie Yue, who did the wonderful illustrations for the book. Her pictures do more than summarize what you're reading on the pages; they communicate real emotion (and motion, when needed). Plus, her style is just so cool! No, really, I am now a fan of hers.
Well, this is it: my review of Mousenet. I hope I will convince as many of you as possible to read the book. It is amazing!