Time Stops for No Mouse

After it was highly, highly recommended to me by a young lady and her sister, I decided to schedule Time Stops for No Mouse by Michael Hoeye as the May book for the sixth grade book group.  The young lady in question is an intelligent and discerning eighth grader, and her sister, equally intelligent and discerning, is a junior in high school.  Both raved about how much they loved the book, and got a bit misty eyed as they told me about it.  And then a few days after these girls sold me on the book, the father of another young library patron thanked me profusely for adding the book’s sequels to the collection.  He told me how much he and his daughter adore the series, and how happy he was to see it in its entirety in our library.

The sixth grade book group met this past Tuesday to discuss this book, and the meeting revealed some positives and some negatives regarding Hoeye’s book.  On the plus side:  all attending book group members actually finished reading the book, which hasn’t happened much lately with this group.  Also on the plus side: once I was able to insist that we talk about the book and not sports, we had a productive discussion.  On the negative side: no one, including me, loved the book.  Also on the negative side: we discovered this isn’t the most fertile book for a group discussion.

I was truly surprised by how little I liked Time Stops for No Mouse; I hated Hoeye’s choice of names (sorry, I know he works hard to create his characters’ names, but they just frustrated me, since they are hard to pronounce and hold no meaning for me), I was a bit bored by the story, and the whole package of the plot, the characters, and the names feels a bit too contrived for me. 

As for the kids in the book group, they were primarily bothered by the fact that mice are the main characters in the story.  Several kids had the same reaction: why make the characters mice, if they are living in a world that seems exactly like the human world?  Where are the differences between how mice live and humans live?  And where are humans in this invented world – do they exist, or not?  And then there were the expected grievances: not enough action, not enough violence, not enough fantasy (animal fantasy clearly doesn’t count as fantasy to this group).

I’m left feeling a bit puzzled by Hoeye’s book.  Would I have liked it better if I hadn’t gone into it with such high expectations?  Would the book work better with a different group of readers, perhaps younger readers?  Would I appreciate the book more if I were to read the three sequels?  And is the kids’ reaction colored by their bias towards Alex Rider and Harry Potter?

If I have time this summer, I think I’ll read at least one of the sequels and see if I’m swayed by that.  But first I have a stack of books on my coffee table, waiting to be read:  The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry, The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan, The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau, The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan, and Tunnels by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams.  Isn’t it lovely that there’s always something new to read?