The Umbrella Mouse

When you’re a mouse, you can get away with living pretty anywhere and most of the human world won’t even notice. Pip has a happy life living inside an umbrella in a shop that sells pretty much only those, but their home is always safe from sale thanks to the owner’s kindly son. The human world is about to catch up with Pip, however, and a bomb throws her right into the middle of it, quite literally. After all, this is 1944 and the humans are fighting a war – a war that claims two more casualties in Pip’s parents.

Rescued by a dog, Pip encounters other animals who have to survive on their own, including plenty of pets who have lost their owners in air raids. She wants their help to get to Italy, where her mother has family, and she herself might find a new home. But Italy is still a warzone, and the only animals that are heading towards continental Europe are members of the animal Resistance – codenamed Noah’s Ark. Pip joins them as a means to an end, but when she sees the work they’re doing, and the dangers they put themselves in, she realises she needs to help. Perhaps family isn’t all about blood and a home isn’t just a building after all.

This is a lovely story that manages to meld sweetness with darkness – and it does get surprisingly dark by the time Pip joins Noah’s Ark’s final mission, going into territory you wouldn’t necessarily expect for the story of an innocent mouse looking for family. Pip’s been sheltered from the worst of the war until the story begins, and slowly comes to see her suffering as not a lonely experience but one she shares with many others – animal and human alike.

No matter how dark it gets in places (and not always simply by implication), this is still a fun story full of jokes at the expense of humans. I love the idea that the agents sending coded messages via Morse code to the Allies in London are actually animals, but that the British are entirely unaware who is feeding them aerial reconnaissance, or how. There aren’t many Resistance spies who can offer a pigeon-eye view of France, of course…

It’s not spoiling anything to say the ending is sufficiently open for there to be plenty of scope for more adventures featuring Pip and her new brothers- and sisters-in-arms, and that would certainly be something to look forward to.