A bit too cute for comfort, but saved by the author’s light touch: a debut that should amuse the most childlike adults—and...


A bird’s-eye view (literally) of life among the field mice of Rottenest Burrows, narrated by Waterford Hopstep, a linnet.

Although he would be known as a finch in America, Hopstep is the product of a resolutely English world, a place of cottages and tea cozies and strong Cheddar cheeses, and country life in England would not be complete without its linnets. Hopstep came to know the charming rodents of Rottenest Burrows quite well, and he manages to bring to life their once-thriving, now sadly deserted village. Like all English villages, it is a place of strange eccentricity snugly contained within well-ordered patterns of behavior. There is young Lord Greystreak, for example, who was raised by insects after his entomologist father died of the grippe and can barely speak mouse as a result. The village intellectual is one Glendower Fieldpan (who runs the Bookish Mouse bookstore and contributes the occasional poem to the local paper), while the town visionary is the inventor Opportune Baggs. The wealthy Merchanty Swift is a successful businessmouse whose great riches cannot completely heal his broken heart, mortally wounded when the beautiful Pleasings Tattersham ran off with the debonair Henri de Rochefoot. In the end, however, it is Merchanty who raises the alarm and warns the townsmice that their very existence is threatened—not just by the Cat, but also by the Humans who are settling nearby. He and the Mayor and General Random Chewings take counsel together to find a way of saving their way of life—but what was it that Burns said about the best-laid plans o’ mice and men?

A bit too cute for comfort, but saved by the author’s light touch: a debut that should amuse the most childlike adults—and the most grown-up of children.

Pub Date: April 2, 2002

ISBN: 0-7432-2498-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2002

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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