My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I'll tip my hat to fellow Minnesotan Kate DiCamillo for this book: the characters are interesting and have a lot of depth, the story is both very sweet and equally disturbing at times, and there is ample proof of DiCamillo's ability to weave quite the "fairy tale"-like adventure story. Everything feels fresh and new while the theme remains in the classical realm.
I did not, however, understand the purpose of the 2-pages long chapters. The book is beautifully and maturely written in a way that totally envelopes the reader, and breaking up the text in such short chapters quickly became very annoying. I'm pained to admit it, but it was so irritating that I found myself not even bothering to read the chapter titles so as not to disrupt my pace. Some folks have suggested to me that the breaks are to make reading the story to children at bedtime much easier, and I guess maybe I'll have to take their word for it.
The dark and disturbing parts, while pretty original and devious, were unfortunately rather jarring conceptually. Even for someone like me who normally loves the stuff, they felt so stark in comparison to the cute parts that they seemed almost out-of-place in this book. Sure, classic fairy tales have plenty of murder, dark plots, and child abuse in them, too, but for some reason I couldn't fully appreciate DiCamillo's dark side in her world of adorable talking mice.
This was my entry into DiCamillo's children's book, and while I only found it "okay," it doesn't deter me in any way from reading the rest of her books. I plan on reading them all. There is a good reason she won the Newbery Medal for this work, and it's likely just my own personal proclivities that are, regrettably, keeping me from truly understanding why.