PECK, Richard. The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail. illus. by Kelly Murphy. 240p. Dial. July 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3838-6. LC 2012027992.
Gr 4-6–Mouse Minor is the smallest mouse in the Royal Mews of Queen Victoria’s Buckingham Palace. Raised by kindly Aunt Marigold, he has no real family. He doesn’t even have a proper name–just a nickname. All he knows is that his mother was not a Mews mouse and that his oddly twisted tail marks him as different from his classmates at the Royal Mews Mouse Academy. Mouse Minor violates a cardinal rule of mouse society by accidentally allowing a human to see him dressed in his school uniform. Disgraced, he runs away, hoping to find some clues about who he is and where he came from. His quest takes him from the stables to the palace parade grounds to Victoria’s private chambers, but even the great Queen herself can’t give him all the answers he seeks. Set against the background of the 1897 Diamond Jubilee, the story portrays a secret animal society existing in the shadows of the human world. Mice, cats, horses, and other creatures have schools, armies, titles, and industries. Cultural attitudes and social ranks parallel the human ones, although because of the difference in life spans, the animal society moves a bit faster. Attractive mouse’s-eye-view drawings help establish the relationship between these two halves of Victorian society. With a plucky hero, exciting plot, and a satisfying, if somewhat predictable resolution, Peck’s latest is a gentle homage to old-school adventure tales.–Elaine E. Knight, Lincoln Elementary Schools, IL