cover image Charlie Muffin's Miracle Mouse

Charlie Muffin's Miracle Mouse

Dick King-Smith, Richard King-Smith, Lina Chesak. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-517-80033-1

King-Smith's (Babe) latest may leave fans feeling less than satisfied. The story shows glimmers of King-Smith's familiar oddball humor but overall feels hastily cobbled together. Bachelor Charlie Muffin is a mouse farmer, inventor and taxidermist who lives in a house full of stuffed pets. One day, the woman of his dreams, Merry Day, turns up in his barn and Charlie engages in a campaign to win her heart and hand by breeding a green mouse. With Merry's encouragement, he perseveres despite repeated failure, trying new tactics (mating a blue mouse with a yellow mouse; feeding his whiskered charges clover and other green foods) and eventually succeeds. To his credit, the author successfully carries off the taxidermy sub-theme; what could have been macabre in less skillful hands emerges as engagingly eccentric. It's a likable enough tale with some memorable lines (""His mouth was full of meat, but his mind was full of Merry""). But there's little drama to fuel it other than the Grand Mouse Championship Show (which Charlie's pea-green mouse wins handily) and a subsequent attempted theft of the tiny champion, and the ending trails off in an anticlimax. Final artwork not seen by PW. Ages 8-10. (Mar.)