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Three Stars for HERMELIN THE DETECTIVE MOUSE

August 18, 2014

“Grey brings her hilarious, cartoonish-yet-artful Traction Man sensibilities to this winsome story of the importance of transcending stereotypes, especially when it comes to mouse detectives.” – Kirkus Reviews, Starred

★ “It’s a terrible thing for Hermelin to be so cruelly misjudged, especially when the mouse’s single aim is to help the hapless people of Offley Street.

Hermelin is a natural-born detective. So when he discovers the street’s notice board plastered with despairing announcements of lost this or possibly stolen that, he’s on the case. The mouse easily locates Mrs. Mattison’s handbag behind some lettuce in her fridge. He finds Bobo the teddy bear, too, dropped from an attic window into Capt. Potts’ cooling lemon-meringue pie. As he solves each mystery, he leaves an explanatory note signed ‘Hermelin.’ But who is Hermelin? The baffled villagers lure the mysterious hero with a thank-you party at Bosher’s sausage shop. When the little mouse shows up for his big moment, however, the terrified party-givers scream ‘MOUSE!’ How could such a benevolent mouse-detective be perceived as a disease-spreading pest? Hermelin spirals into a full-blown identity crisis, brilliantly captured in nightmarish, comic-book-style panels. All ends well when a girl named Emily sees Hermelin for who he really is. Comical visual details abound, and each stamp-sized window of the Offley Street townhomes is a story in miniature, evoking all the wonder and delight of an advent calendar.

Grey brings her hilarious, cartoonish-yet-artful Traction Man sensibilities to this winsome story of the importance of transcending stereotypes, especially when it comes to mouse detectives.” – Kirkus Reviews, Starred

★ “This winning picture book opens with a scene of a tiny community of attached houses on Offley Street, where the residents and their pets are engaged in all sorts of activities simultaneously. Next, the narrator introduces himself. Hermelin, a charming white mouse, lives in an attic and enjoys typing messages on an upright typewriter. After reading on a notice board that his neighbors have lost a number of items, he quickly solves each case and also saves a baby from an untimely end. The residents gather to thank their unknown benefactor, but when the mouse appears, panic ensues. Downcast, Hermelin prepares to leave Offley Street, but a friendly neighbor offers him a better option. In both the precisely written text and the richly detailed mixed-media illustrations, this title offers a treasure trove of narratives, large and small. The colorful artwork is full of drama and inventive details, and while the double-page spreads are sometimes crowded, they are also dynamic, well structured, and satisfying. Some children will enjoy the challenge of solving the mini-mysteries using clues found in the illustrations, while others will be content to follow the adventures of the amiable mouse as his tale unfolds. An absorbing picture book with a small but worthy hero.” – Booklist, Starred

★ “A double-page spread shows us Offley Street, a panorama of seven row houses, each revealing, in glimpses through windows and open doors, small mysteries and nascent stories that figure throughout the book. Our entrée into this world is a small white mouse detective, Hermelin, who tackles, one by one, the disappearances and crimes set up in that first spread and reports his findings to the Offley residents through letters he composes on his trusty typewriter. And one by one, the grateful residents, from Lady Chumley-Plumley to Bulbo Bosher to Imogen Splotts, wonder, ‘But who IS Hermelin?’ So far, so cozy, but things heat up when Baby McMumbo falls into the garbage can and is about to be scooped up by the ‘Garbage Gobbler.’ Fast but anonymous action on Hermelin’s part saves the baby and the day. However, when the residents discover that Hermelin is a mouse, they want nothing to do with him. Rejected, Hermelin prepares to leave Offley Street, but in best detective fashion, Grey pulls out a previously overlooked character to turn the tide and give Hermelin his due. As Grey’s Traction Man (rev. 3/05) is to the superhero trope, so Hermelin is to the observant, cerebral detective. Every page holds treats and surprises in this tribute to neighborhood life, good deeds, and journalism.” – The Horn Book, Starred