The Mousehunter by Alex Milway. (Grades 4-7)
The Mousehunter is set in a fantasy world where there are thousands of species of mice. Mice are kept as pets, collected, or used in the workplace. A mousekeeper's job is to take care of the mice - feed them, keep their cages clean, keep them happy, and find them when they escape. This is easier said than done with some species of mice, like the wiley Sharpclaw Mouse whose talons can cut through most any material or the Comet Mouse that's quick as lightning.
Emiline is the mousekeeper for the wealthy mouse collector Isiah Lovelock. She loves her job and dreams of one day becoming a mousehunter and scouring the globe for rare and special mice. When she gets the chance to serve as a mousekeeper on a privateer ship hunting the dreaded pirate Mousebeard, Emiline is thrilled. She's off on her first adventure! But with sea monsters, storms, and political intrigue, it's much more dangerous than she ever would have thought.
I was interested in reading The Mousehunter after reading the publisher's description. The many different kinds of mice sounded fascinating and they did not disappoint. At the end of each chapter there is a page from Isiah Lovelock's Mousehunter's Almanac describing a different species of mouse and notes about finding or collecting it. For me, this was the best part of the book and I'm sure young lovers of small, furry creatures will feel the same way.
The Mousehunter is also an action-packed adventure story with plenty of twists and turns. Personally, I wish there had been a little more character development (we never really find out where Emiline came from or how she feels about any of the things that happen to her...), but the fast-paced story had me turning the pages. I also wish that we found out a little bit more about the mouse-obssessed world in which the story is placed. We get lots of tidbits about different mice, but no hint of how this mousy world developed. The sequel's already out in England, so maybe that'll flesh out the world a bit.
It's an interesting premise for sure and I'd hand this to any middle-grader looking for an engaging fantasy adventure. Check out the Flashrific Mousehunter website for more info on the books and author (also check out Alex Milway's blog). The American cover was designed by C.B. Canga, who also has a blog (cool... don't think I've ever run across a cover artist's blog in my review research).