Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve
Matt Haig, well known for his bestselling children’s books, (A Mouse Called Miika is his twelfth) is also a much-admired author for adults, his most recent success being The Midnight Library.
Miika, a Finnish mouse, has fun adventures which involve special powers, (drimwicked) which enable him to overcome a snow owl’s attack, elevate a log, and steal a gigantic chunk of cheese. He also manages to befriend pixies and elves, even a reindeer! A highlight of the tale is his evading very scary monster trolls.
He has challenging beginnings. His single mother is exhausted in her role as carer for her latest litter of thirteen – so much so that she forgot to name him and it is the elves who call him Miika.
Matt Haig writes with a zest that adds a special drama and excitement. Children would love the complex and colourful song of the trolls. The entire book provides a sample for them to become aware of the playful power of language and how it can delight. Urga Burga cheese is a splendid example – following several extravagant descriptions, he summarises it by saying ‘it tastes like everything in the world at once! Perfect!’
Along the way, Miika learns some key lessons that are important in life. The Truth Fairy, who never lies, reveals the fact that honesty is not always welcomed. A good friend, he realises, is one of the most valuable gifts in life, but perhaps the most significant is that one must be true to oneself; not to pander to another’s influence even if they happen to be a friend. A subtle suggestion to resist peer group pressure?
Chris Mould’s exuberant illustrations feature largely and his line drawings are an exciting accompaniment to this fairy tale with a difference.
It is difficult to decide the targeted age group. The themes are aimed at upper primary, yet stories involving mice, pixies and elves may not appeal to the older ‘sophisticated’ child.
Parents and teachers would have to decide….
A Mouse Called Miika
by Matt Haig
Allen and Unwin
ISBN 978 18388 5368 6