Review: 'Mousemobile' by Prudence Breitrose
Mousenet and Mousemobile are recommended for readers 8 to 12, grades 3 to 7. They are clearly juvenile fiction, but are well-written and imaginative enough that “all ages” might be a better recommendation. Megan Miller, the protagonist, who was 10 years old in Mousenet, is 11 years old here. The series is not just spinning its wheels; this is a true sequel.
In Mousenet, Megan and three others – her slightly older step-cousin Joey Fisher and two adults, Megan’s inventor uncle Fred Barnes who made the mouse-sized Thumbtop miniature computer, and Joey’s father Jake who invented the solar blobs that are its power supply – become the only humans who learn that all mice are intelligent, and want the Thumbtop for all mice around the world so they can communicate instantly via a Mouse Internet. They obviously need more than a single miniature computer curiosity if this is to happen, so Mousenet is about the two children and the mice – particularly Trey, the Talking Mouse, and the officious but smart head of the Mouse Nation, the Chief Executive Mouse (a.k.a. Topmouse, known as the Big Cheese behind his back) – persuading Fred and Jake to mass-produce the Thumbtop. The mice come up with the fiction that enables the two adults to get away with this, by creating a “cute” small company, Planet Mouse, to purportedly make miniature computers as novelty keychain fobs, in Megan’s and Uncle Fred’s home city of Cleveland, Ohio.
Illustrated by Stephanie Yue, NYC, Disney•Hyperion Books, October 2013, hardcover $16.99 (282 pages), paperback $7.99, Kindle $9.99.
As Mousemobile begins, everything is apparently running smoothly. Planet Mouse in Cleveland is churning out thousands of Thumbtops for mice, thanks to an assembly line of mice technicians under Uncle Fred’s supervision. Jake Fisher is making enough solar blobs to power them all, hidden among the additional solar blobs that he makes in the form of human earrings, belt buckles, eyeglass frames, hair barrettes and similar “light-up” novelties. Joey has gotten wrapped up in Little League baseball, and his team has a good shot at going to the Little League World Series. The Big Cheese, at the Mouse Nation headquarters in Silicon Valley, California, complacently e-mails them weekly to keep them informed of the mice’s progress in spreading Thumbtops to all mousekind, and how the mice are helping to surreptitiously prevent or otherwise deal with climate change; a serious problem for humans and mice alike.
Then suddenly the humans in Cleveland get an emergency e-mail from the Big Cheese summoning them to Silicon Valley.
Please come. If you don’t come, we may all die. (p. 33)
It would be a spoiler to give away the nature of the menace, but it does immediately threaten the lives of all the mice at Mouse Nation headquarters in Silicon Valley. The only temporary solution that the humans can think of is to rent a RV large enough for an emergency evacuation of all the mice at Mouse Nation headquarters – 2,425 of them. And take them where? As the jacket-flap blurb says (somewhat misleadingly, since only Megan and Uncle Fred are involved at first):
The four humans rush to the rescue, only to find themselves on a crazy road-trip with way too many mice. Their journey takes them clear across the country, always just one step ahead of the mysterious enemy. Will the humans save the Mouse Nation, so mice can continue their fight for the health of the planet?
Considering how inventive the mice are, I expected – as would probably most readers - from the title that Trey and the other mice would be involved with tiny automobiles for mice. No. The Mousemobiles – there are actually more than one of them – is the RV in which the humans and the mice from Silicon Valley escape ahead of “the mysterious enemy”. The story is clever and surprised me several times, with more suspense both humorous (Uncle Fred is a terrible driver of ordinary cars, and he has never driven a huge Recreational Vehicle before) and serious (who is "the mysterious enemy"? What is worse, is it humans or mice?) than is in Mousenet. Mousemobile is fun reading ...
... until about the last seventy pages. The author and all of the “good guys” promote very heavily the dangers of the Earth’s warming due to human overuse of fossil fuels; but the message does not overwhelm the plot until the end of Mousemobile, where it turns into a blatant faceoff between the Believers in Climate Change (Noble/Good) versus the Climate Change Deniers (Stupid/Evil). Climate change is a real problem, which is presented here much too simplistically just for a “feel good” conclusion.
Despite its disappointing ending, Mousemobile is enjoyable for its first 200+ pages. Let’s hope that Breitrose has gotten her message out of her system and will return to telling an imaginative story. She says on her online blog that Disney•Hyperion has just bought Mousenet #3, Mouse Mission, but no publication date is given.