cover image The Orphan and the Mouse

The Orphan and the Mouse

Martha Freeman, illus. by David McPhail. Holiday House, $16.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8234-3167-0

Freeman (the First Kids Mystery series) intertwines the stories of a mouse colony and the orphanage where it resides in 1949 Philadelphia in a pleasurably old-fashioned tale with two strong heroines: 11-year-old orphan Caro, who has a disfigured hand, and widowed mouse Mary, sentenced to stay behind when the colony decamps for fear of extermination. Mary and Caro's lives first intersect when Caro saves the mouse from the resident cat and continue to merge as the possibility of shady goings-on at the orphanage grows stronger. Is the seemingly virtuous headmistress involved in kidnapping and baby trafficking? It's occasionally difficult to keep track of the large number of adults, some operating on the wrong side of the law, but Freeman brings the various characters and threads together in a satisfying climax and resolution. E.B. White's Stuart Little is an inspiration to both mice and orphans; Aesop's fable about the mouse and the lion is also invoked when Caro points out to another orphan, "I'm saying I helped the mouse, and now it wants to help me." McPhail's b&w drawings create a suitably shadowy ambiance. Ages 8%E2%80%9312. (Aug.)