Aristocratic mice

I picked up this book for one reason: the cover.  I LOVED the cover–its old-fashioned look, its promise of an adventurous tale, and the look of the well-dressed, aristocratic mice brave enough for human-sized adventures was enough to sell me.  I did hesitate slightly; it’s a large hardback volume (but a quick read as it’s meant for the third grade reader and I did graduate from the third grade quite some time ago–although not without some tears shed over that 53-page hand-written-and-with-photographs report on whales), and therefore wasn’t cheap.

Also, there’s that whole myth about books and their covers that always makes me feel slightly guilty for making a decision like that.  But here’s the deal with that phrase.  Not judging a book by its cover is extremely appropriate when applied as it is usually meant, to people.  But not judging an actual book by its cover is, in my opinion, ridiculous.  Why would you ignore that ecstatic rush of emotion when you pick up a beautiful book, hold it in your hand, wonder what kind of tale would fit between the covers, and taking it home to find out?  Well, I wouldn’t, and in this case I’m glad I didn’t.

Title: Tumtum and Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall
Author: Emily Bearn
Genre
: Animal Fantasy, Fiction
Age: 7 – 10, Grades 2 – 4

Summary and Review:

Tumtum and Nutmeg live in the most glorious mansion with the best silver and more bedrooms than they’d need for a whole litter of mice.  (I don’t remember how many mice are usually in a litter, but trust me, they would be ready.)  They consider themselves quiet mice, and Tumtum likes to spend his days reading and toasting his feet by the fire while Nutmeg enjoys spending her days busying herself around the kitchen.  They remind me of my grandparents, if, that is, my grandparents were millionaire rodents.

Despite my initial excitement at the book, I started it a few times.  This is partly due to my reading habits–I tend to read 5 – 6 books at once and one always gets left out and needs to be started over.  It’s partly due to having picked the book up knowing nothing about it and doubting whether or not I had made a good choice.  And perhaps partly due to the fact that it starts somewhat slowly (although not really, I realized when I finally sat down and gave it a chance…and then couldn’t put it down until I had finished all three volumes over the next two days.)  So, it was a great read.  The mice begin to feel sorry for the two children living in the house in which their house resides (hidden in a forgotten broom closet behind a dresser) and decide to help them out.  Thus the adventuring begins.  The mice act as a “fairy” of sorts for the children, darning their socks and fixing their toys, and the children’s usually humdrum lives (lived without a mother and with the absent-mindedness of an inventor father) turn exciting and wonderful as a result.  Through various twists and turns in the plot, the mice end up fighting evil Aunt Ivy (who has come for an unwelcome stay), rescuing pets from the school classroom, and fighting pirates on the high seas (okay, they are really the Rats, and it’s a large pond, but let’s allow for some perspective here.)

The characters in the book are all wonderful—Tumtum and Nutmeg, the tiny, modest heroes, General Marchmouse, the heroic and arrogant retired general who appears as a major character in all three stories, plus the children and other supporting characters, like the nimble ballerina mice on pogo sticks.

Follow-up with the kids:

This book is a large volume, and might be daunting for a child to pick up, but the reading level is such that many young elementary students will be able to read it themselves.  Having three stories in one makes it a great purchase—you don’t have to wait for the next in the series to be released!  Also, I think the stories are so universally fun and lovable, that, if you can convince them to do so, it would be a great one for an older sibling (maybe in 2nd – 4th grade) to read aloud to a younger sibling (maybe in Kindergarten or 1st grade).

And if they love it, there’s always the next one, Tumtum and Nutmeg: The Rose Cottage Tales.

Possible Issues: Minor Violence and Alcohol (rats and alcoholic chocolates)

I feel almost silly for mentioning these things, because the book is so innocent and old-fashioned as a rule, but I know that every family is different and some parents will appreciate knowing this in advance, if only to help prepare their kids.  In the first story, the enemy is evil Aunt Ivy, who comes to stay with the Mildews, completely unwelcomely.  She does so because she is having an exterminator at her house get rid of mice.  She HATES mice.  So when she sees Tumtum and Nutmeg, she hatches a plan, leaving out mouse poison (which gets Tumtum sick and starts a very creative war with the Royal Mouse Army under the command of General Marchmouse), and planning to put poison gas into their mouse hole (hairspray, but still).  The second story has the mice working to rescue the same General as well as some gerbils from a school classroom, right before they are threatened with various things like being sent to a pet store, having the gerbil family broken up into different homes, and being fed to another pet.  There’s also mention of being “put down” although it doesn’t say what that means.  In the third story, to escape the pirates (Rats), they feed the rats chocolates with liquor in the middle; the rats get drunk and they escape.  SO, while these are SMALL pieces of the story, and describing them all in one paragraph here makes it sound way more overwhelming than it actually is, I know it’s important for many families to know these things in advance.  But it’s tame.  Way tamer than your average Disney movie, for example.  Happy reading!

3 Responses to “Aristocratic mice”

  1. This looks great. I think my daughter would love it!

  2. I hope she does! I can’t wait to read the sequel myself.

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