Kirkus Reviews, starred review A must-read.
School Library Journal, starred review A wonderfully written tale.
In early 18th-century England, a runaway convinces a puppeteer to take her on as an apprentice. "This colorful novel is likely to interest fans of Karen Cushman's The Midwife's Apprentice, to which it often seems indebted," said PW. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Mouse is a young girl working in the scullery of a manor house in Medieval England who gets fed up with constantly being punished for her incompetence and her curiosity. When Mouse takes another serious beating, she runs away from the manor thinking that any life would be better than this one. On the road she encounters a puppet show and decides that becoming a puppeteer is the only thing she wants in the world. The puppeteer eventually agrees to apprentice her, but the arrangement is not always smooth sailing. When the puppeteer is attacked by rogues, Mouse realizes that there is more to the puppeteer's story then she is letting on. This story is reminiscent of "The Midwife's Apprentice" in both setting and the growth of the character. Even given the similarities, this book stands on its own for the 7-10 reader. The characterization is strong and Mouse's coming of age is well told and has some nice mysterious elements. I read it a few weeks back and Mouse's character has stayed with me. 2003, Simon & Schuster,
Gr 4-6-Abandoned at Dunston Manor as a baby, Mouse was raised as a scullery maid and brutally treated for years. When Cook slashes her face with a meat hook in anger, the child takes to the road. She meets some kindly travelers, but is reminded again and again that she is on her own. Then she happens upon a puppet show, and is completely mesmerized. She asks to become the puppeteer's apprentice, but is flatly turned down. Despite the rejection, she stows away on top of the wagon, and again begs the performer to teach her how to make the puppets come alive. This time, she is grudgingly accepted. As they travel the countryside, Mouse cooks and cleans and, in return, learns the art and craft of a puppeteer. She is a quick study, whether bargaining with vendors, carving wooden figures, or manipulating puppet strings. But a dark figure lurks around the edges of the story, and the puppet theaters. Ordin makes Mouse edgy, although she doesn't know why, and readers will feel the suspense begin to build. The puppeteer, who Mouse learns is a woman traveling in disguise, is slow to reveal anything personal about her past. As the story reaches a sinister climax, she learns the puppeteer's secrets, which prove deadly. Searching throughout the story for her own identity, Mouse ultimately receives a name and experiences great sorrow on her way to fulfilling her dreams. Set in England in the Middle Ages, this wonderfully written tale holds mystery, suspense, and the realism that comes with a battle fought and won.-Kit Vaughan, Chesterfield County Public Schools, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Love (A Year Without Rain, 2000, etc.), as love often does, offers magic, high spirits, and adventure. When her story opens, Mouse is a scullery maid who is like the puppets she comes to know: "waiting in the dark of their trunk for something wondrous to happen." Though advised to find a safe life "with a family of flesh and blood instead of wood and wool," Mouse knows that she and the puppet master she befriends are meant to travel together, and she learns that the magic of the puppets is only transcended by the happiness they bring to others. Learning the art of puppetry but losing the puppeteer, Mouse must pursue her calling and find her true name alone. Later, she marvels that "a girl born with nothing at all, not even a name, could by sharp wits and hard work make a place in the world." Colorful, lively, rhythmic language and a strong sense of medieval England make this a great read-aloud, a tale full of magic, deadly swordfights with thieves, and one young girl's finding the courage to pursue her dream. The pace never falters, the characterizations are strong, and readers young and old will feel a bit more emboldened to meet the road as it rises up to meet them. A must-read in the grand storytelling tradition of Lloyd Alexander and Karen Cushman. (author's note, bibliography) (Fiction. 8-12)