HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Mouse That Roared
Author: Leonard Wibberley
Publisher: Dramatic Pub. Co., republished in 1985
ISBN-13: 978-0316938723 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0316938726 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0871294555 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0871294559 (Paperback)
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Older teens and adults
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Disclosure: Any books donated for review purposes are in turn donated to a library. No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.
For more information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
Wibberley, Leonard. The Mouse That Roared (published in 1955 by Little Brown and Co. Inc., 34 Beacon St., Boston, MA; republished in 1959 by Bantam Books Inc., 271 Madison Ave., New York City, NY). When I was in high school, I was never involved in drama, but I did attend all the plays, and one year either the junior or senior class did a drama adapted for the stage in 1963 by Christopher Sergel from The Mouse That Roared, a 1955 satirical novel by Irish-American writer Leonard Wibberley. The imaginary Duchy of Grand Fenwick is a tiny European country, three miles by five miles, supposedly located in the Alps between Switzerland and France, ruled by the 22 year old Duchess Gloriana XII. It retains a 1400s economy, dependent on making Pinot Grand Fenwick wine. However, an American winery makes a faux version, “Pinot Grand Enwick,” putting the country on the verge of bankruptcy. They decide that their only course of action is to declare war on the United States, and, expecting a quick and total defeat as their standing army, under Field Marshal Tully Bascomb, is tiny and equipped with only bows and arrows, they hope to rebuild through the generous aid that the United States bestows on all its vanquished enemies, as it did for Germany through the Marshall Plan at the end of World War II.
However, quite by accident, Grand Fenwick defeats the mighty superpower. Landing in New York City, which is almost completely deserted above ground because of a city-wide disaster drill, the Duchy’s invading army, at one point mistaken for men from Mars, wanders into a top secret government lab and unintentionally captures the “Q-bomb,” a prototype doomsday device that could destroy the world if triggered, along with its maker, an American scientist named Dr. Alfred Kokintz, who happens to be a native of Grand Fenwick, and escapes with them back to Europe. What will be the result? The novel originally appeared as a six-part serial in the Saturday Evening Post from December 25, 1954, through January 29, 1955, under the title The Day New York Was Invaded. The author’s original intended title was The Wrath of Grapes, a play on John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. There are several instances of drinking alcoholic beverages, especially wine, and smoking pipes or cigarettes. In addition to a couple of euphemisms (golly, heck), the “d” and “h” words are found a few times, and the exclamation “Good God” occurs once.
In addition, a veiled reference to an illegitimate birth in the distant past is mentioned, and the rock formations of Grand Fenwick are said to be billions of years old. Otherwise, no major objectionable elements are featured. The viewpoint of the tale may come across as anti-military, anti-Cold War, and anti-nuclear proliferation with its commentaries about modern politics and world situations. The book is now a bit dated, and the cold war humor might be difficult for younger readers to grasp. However, even if one doesn’t necessarily agree with all the social views underlying the plot, it is still an interesting and funny story. And one reviewer did note that it “effectively makes its case for limited government.” Wibberley wrote one prequel, Beware of the Mouse (1958), and three sequels, The Mouse on the Moon (1962), The Mouse on Wall Street (1969), and The Mouse that Saved the West (1981). The Mouse That Roared was made into a 1959 film starring Peter Sellers in three roles, Duchess Gloriana XII; Count Rupert Mountjoy, the Prime Minister; and Tully Bascomb, the military leader. It strays from the book in many respects. A 1963 movie sequel was released, based on The Mouse on the Moon.