Saturday, August 13, 2011

Leon Chameleon P.I. and the Case of the Kidnapped Mouse

Leon Chameleon P.I. and the Case of the Kidnapped Mouse
By:  Janet Hurst-Nicholson
Illustrations by: Barbara McGuire
ISBN:  9781875011117
Published 1995 by Gecko Books
Available Format: paperback, ebook

My Rating:  ★★★★★

Leon Chameleon is a private investigator who isn’t always taken seriously, particularly when he brings up another Uncle Leonardo story.  One day, Mr. Woodland Mouse is kidnapped by a young boy, and it is up to Leon to formulate a plan for his rescue.  Constable Mole, Molerat, Lieutenant Crow, Sergeant Lorie, and the whole gang must work together to retrieve Mr. Mouse and get him safely back home to his wife and kids. 

This is the cutest story I have read in a long time! I think what I loved the most about it was that the author does not dumb down the vocabulary for children.  It reads like a quality YA novel with subject matter suitable for a younger audience.  It is exactly the sort of book I want my children to enjoy! 

It reminded me very much of The Wind in the Willows and The Guardians of Ga’Hoole.  Willows is a childhood favorite of mine, and the Guardians series is a more recent obsession.

Beneath the amazing writing and fun illustrations, there is a great lesson to be learned.  A little boy takes Mr. Mouse away from his natural habitat.  He cages him up and tries to feed him things like dog food, which he cannot eat.  It is very important that children know that they cannot just make a wild animal a pet.  Any animal needs the right kind of care, and taking one in is not to be taken lightly.  Here we see that Mr. Mouse has a family and friends that he is taken away from, and the improper care he receives has a detrimental effect on him.

There is also the lesson of team work.  Leon is clever and witty and a wonderful main character, but he doesn’t completely steal the show.  It really is about all the animals pitching in and working toward a common goal.  House Rat decides to help the team out because there is something in it for him, but I think in his heart, he would have anyway.  There is also Judge Spotted Eagle Owl.  She would normally eat a small animal like Mr. Mouse, but she chooses to help the team because she sees there is a bigger problem at hand that affects all of the animals in the forest. 

There is even a small section in the back of the book giving information and facts about the [real] animals in the story.

I cannot say enough good things about this book!  It is absolutely one of the best children’s books I have read so far this year!  Your kids will love it, and I can guarantee you will too!!