The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail, by Richard Peck, illustrated by Kelly Murphy published in 2013 by Dial Books for Young Readers
The saying goes: Every time a human walks out of a room, something with more feet walks in.
If you haven’t heard that one, you probably haven’t been eavesdropping on mice.
The humans in this book walk in and out of rooms in Buckingham Palace and the Royal Mews. Even there, a highly civilized society of mice waltzes in and out as well, carrying out tremendously important tasks unbeknownst to (most) of the human residents.
The very smallest of all is a little fellow lacking a name. Raised by his Aunt Marigold, he is dubbed Mouse Minor by his schoolmates. His one unusual characteristic is the question mark shape of his thin gray tail.
One momentous day, fed up with being bullied by the bigger fellows, Mouse Minor runs away from school. The palace grounds are abuzz with activity just now, since Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee is only a few days away, so before you can say, “Shiver My Whiskers!” Mouse Minor is spotted in full scholar’s attire by a young princess. A very bad error on his part.
That’s just the start of his harrowing adventures. In quick succession, he rides with the royal horses, is mousenapped by sinister bats, becomes a Yeomouse of the Guard for a day, and nearly drowns in a bowl of strawberry punch.
Through it all, the question niggling at his mind is: Just who am I? What is my true name? Where did I come from? And might the Queen have the answers?
Here is superb storytelling by one of the masters, Richard Peck. His lovable mouse narrator draws us right into this bustling world, with a string of exciting, surprising, and humorous adventures. I loved the saucy cats, thoughtful horses, conniving bats, and different classes of mice all with their own reputations. I did think Queen Victoria took it a bit on the chin with her dangling dewlaps and one-foot-in-the-grave. That’s my only complaint, though. It’s a winning story and a great read-aloud for both boys and girls, ages 6 and up.
A few full-color, full-page illustrations are mixed in with blue-tinted graphite drawings showcasing this mousetastic world.