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Penguin Young Readers Group
"The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail." is by Richard Peck.

"THE MOUSE WITH THE QUESTION MARK TAIL,” by Richard Peck, illustrated by Kelly Murphy, Dial, $15.99, 240 pages (f) (ages 8-12)

"The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail," a companion to “Secrets at Sea,” is similarly set in Victorian London, but has new rodent characters anticipating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. In the Royal Mews, a whole private honeycomb of mouse passages crisscrossing and connecting to the palace, a tiny mouse simply called Mouse Minor is determined to find where he was born, who his parents are and above all his real name. Because he believes the queen’s powers are “unexplainable” and can help him, Mouse Minor, with his tail like a question mark, is determined to ask her himself.

Through a series of dangerous ventures — being lodged in a horse’s ear and swimming in a silver punch bowl — he escapes to Buckingham Palace. Plunked on the queen’s tea saucer, Mouse Minor discovers he can squeak (one of Peck’s many puns) to the Royal Mum.

Peck’s whimsical and tongue-in-cheek storytelling makes “The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail” a must for reading aloud since the introduction of each new character is delightfully portrayed with individualistic dialogue and colloquialisms. Murphy’s intricate pencil illustrations of Aunt Marigold, the Head Needlemouse, Queen Grandmother, with “nothing sunny about her disposition,” B. Chiroptera, headmaster, and the bullies at the Royal Mews Mouse Academy add much to the storyline.

The protagonist contemplates a new invention, the moving pictures that captured Queen Victoria’s jubilee parade. “Why not a moving picture that features a mouse?”

As formidable as mice are in real life, there seems no end to lore that “features a mouse” in nursery rhymes, fairy tales and contemporary novels. The reader will surely agree and may want to add Mouse Minor, the mouse with a question mark tail, to the prestigious line of literary rodents.