A Boy Called M.o.u.s.e. is an exciting and fast moving book about Mouse, a boy who has no surname and a surprising amount of enemies for someone so young. The reader knows more about Mouse’s story than he does himself as, though the majority of chapters are written in the first person from Mouse’s point of view, some the chapters are written in the third person from the view of both people who wish him ill and wish him well. Because of this from the start the reader knows what Mouse does not: that he is the son of rich parents who are lost at sea and his nursemaid Hanny, who he calls Ma, ran away with him to save him from his uncle Scrope who wants him dead. But Scrope is not the true villain of the piece. He is in the clutches of the sadistic money lender Mr Button who likes to cause others misery as much as he likes to collect the money they owe him. Scrope thinks that he has Button under his control but his perception is clouded by the jealousy he feels because his brother’s wife did not choose to marry him. Scrope needs money to pay back Button and feed his gambling addiction and Mouse is in his way. This leads him to leave Mouse’s affairs in Button’s hands. Button quickly discovers where Hanny has taken Mouse and when he judges the time is right he brings Mouse to Murkstone Hall, a cruel and tough school in the middle of nowhere run by an unhappy, uncaring man. But even during Mouse’s trials in his lessons we know worse is to come since we have seen Mouse as a servant in the kitchen of the school near the start of the book. Luckily we also know from the Dramatis Personae (if we have read it before starting the book) that Mouse has many cheerful friends to look forward to such as Nick Tick, Charlie Punchman and even a heroine, Kitty. Mouse longs to return to Hanny. The only clue he has to who he really is is a small silver disk with his name and a mouse carved on it that Hanny gave him and made him swear never to show to anybody.
This book is about love and friendship during hardship and what family really means. Even though Mouse is cruelly treated and pursued by villains throughout the book he also finds some true friends and how to survive in the world that has treated him badly. It also shows Mouse’s feelings of displacement because he knows he doesn’t know the full story about who he is and why the villains of the piece have it in for him. Mouse learns that it is love that creates a family and he uses this knowledge to create a life that he is happy in.
Mouse is a cheering and lively character. His skill at climbing and his head for heights are phenomenal and help him both in finding a place for himself wherever he is and when escaping from those who wish him ill. The other characters, whether hero or villain, in the book are all as vividly depicted as Mouse and have their own lives and, for some, secrets. I thoroughly enjoyed A Boy Called M.o.u.s.e. It is due out on 4th October and is an exciting book for the 9+ age group. I would like to thanks Bloomsbury for providing me with an advance copy for review.