The Somewhat True Adventures of Sammy Shine

illus. by Henry Cole. 272p. Peachtree. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781561458660.
Gr 3–5—In this spare middle grade novel, an unassuming mouse named Sammy gets the ride of a lifetime when he's stolen from his human owner and used as the test pilot for a remote-controlled plane. Disbelief is suspended as readers travel with Sammy over the treetops, ultimately crash landing into the Great Woods some distance away from home. After climbing out of the wreckage, the rodent encounters a kingdom of mice who initially revere Sammy's powerful aviation skills. Sammy also learns about the mice's mortal enemy, a power-hungry weasel named Mustela. When his downed plane "mysteriously" disappears, it's up to Sammy and his motley crew of forest critters—Blackie, a crippled crow; Grace, a snarky newt; and Peewee, a perpetually hungry shrew—to locate and repair the Spirit of Sammy before it falls into nefarious claws. There is some mild suspense when Sammy and his crew's quest is endangered by Mustela and his gang of vermin. Stunning pencil illustrations complemented by gorgeously detailed passages about the natural surroundings are particularly standout elements. Unfortunately, these are undermined by a clichéd plot and weakly imagined characters. While this novel seems to be aimed at younger readers, odd moments such as Mustela's creepy advances toward the mouse princess, Phoebe ("He strolled over to Phoebe and brushed her face, stroking her whiskers. She slapped his paw away, furious") seem too mature for the target audience.
VERDICT Beautiful illustrations and sometimes stellar prose still don't get this illustrated novel off the ground.

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