"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton
This is where I chronicle my reading life. I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.
Although I wasn't particularly keen to read this book (and its sequel) for my Year in Disney Movies project, I found myself pleasantly surprised.
This is written in that perfect children's classic, read-aloud way -- except, unlike many middle-grade authors, Margery Sharp has the discipline not to headhop, instead breaking character perspectives into short sections within chapters. It inserts funny commentary or asides that add to an overall tone of warmth, dignity, and importance without ever wandering too far from the story or characters.
Like all books I end up falling unexpectedly in love with, it is the characters that do it for me in this book. I love the portrayal of Bernard as a humble "pantry mouse" who nevertheless manages the capture the heart of the genteel house pet, Bianca. I like that Bianca's sheltered existence and wealth do not make her snobbish, even as she is sometimes baffled by the things she encounters outside her "porcelain pagoda." And I love that, rather than get distracted by the half-baked plot of rescuing a Norwegian prisoner (I never did figure out why this particular prisoner was worthy of rescue but not the others?), the book focuses instead on the relationships between the three very different mice -- Bernard, Bianca, and the course pirate, Nils, and the way they have to learn to live and work together in close quarters and under dangerous circumstances. Despite the overall warm and cozy tone of the book, stark moments of darkness keep it from ever becoming too saccharine -- such as the bones of prisoners the mice encounter on the way to the Black Castle, or a cat's almost sexual pleasure in tormenting Miss Bianca.
These are the most human mice I have ever met, and I'm glad this project pushed me to ride across the Norwegian countryside in the back of a prison supply wagon and cross treacherous waters guided by a map covered with bonnets with them.