Prudence Breitrose

A Mouse can Dream by Prudence Breitrose

A Mouse can Dream

What does it feel like to have a first book out? Well, great, of course. But maybe it would have felt greater if I’d done a better job at managing my hopes and expectations for Mousenet before it was published, in November, 2011.

Yes, there were times in the run-up to publication when I thought the book might sink without trace. But at other times I couldn’t help giving way to “What ifs.” Couldn’t help noticing how some books by unknown authors rocket up in the charts. Couldn’t avoid seeing that word ‘debut’ in rave reviews. At Costco I even found myself visualizing Mousenet in their book section, selling in the millions–but why stop there? I imagined it boxed in a gift set with all its sequels, just like The Hunger Games.

It did nothing to dampen my hopes when a half-page article about me appeared in the San Jose Mercury News. It helped even less when the Merc reporter e-mailed to say that a Hollywood studio had been in touch with him, trying to find me.

And I had an extra reason for thinking my book might perhaps cause more of a stir than most. My mice, who have evolved and become computer-literate, slow down the rate of climate change. Shouldn’t that have got the book banned in a few southern school districts or libraries? And launched me into, say, an interview on NPR, or denunciation by right-wing commentators?

Fame, I was ready for my close-up. As one of my characters says, ‘A mouse can dream.’

It didn’t happen. No NPR. No attacks by Rush Limbaugh. No reviews in the mainline press. No movies (Hollywood decided it was too like Ratatouille.)

True, I had an excellent fifteen minutes of fame locally, finding at my launch party that I loved talking to a roomful of people. I wanted more–but more was hard to come by. For one thing (after saying, ‘we think this will be a big book for us’) Hyperion-Disney did nothing that I could detect in the way of promotion or publicity. Local children’s bookstores weren’t interested in hosting an event for an unknown. And schools? It took more than a year to arrange for a couple to invite me.

Mousenet sold quite well in its first Christmas season, then settled down to ‘chug along,’ as my editor put it, heading into a steady decline over the next year.

True, that year did bring experiences that were priceless. I was invited to make a few appearances–mostly in front of other writers–which helped me realize how very lucky I was to have a book out at all. Then there were the comments from kids themselves, who don’t hold back. Nineteen exclamation points. Seventy six. The best book ever. The second best book ever. If you haven’t read Mousenet you haven’t lived. Kids telling me that they were in pain, aching for a sequel.

This enthusiasm renewed my desire to push my book out there, to get it under the noses of more readers. If it had been my real child, instead of a virtual one, this was the point at which I would have paid for tutoring. For a book, that translated into trying to create a buzz on the Internet.

Not that easy, as I found out. I did try my hand at tweeting, and collected a few followers (two of whom tweet in Norwegian). I also found my way onto some climate-change sites, which gave the book nice reviews. But after a nice little spike in sales when the paperback came out, Mousenet resumed its steady decline.


I was on vacation in the Middle East when–without any help from me–Mousenet went off to Florida, made friends with people of influence, and got itself nominated for the Sunshine State Young Readers Award of 2014. And this, as Ginny knows, is a big deal (she won the YA award this year with her great Lost in the River of Grass). Weekly sales of Mousenet immediately shot up to more than twice what they’d been at the launch.

So let’s hope thousands of Floridian third- through fifth-graders read Mousenet, and send me emails or Facebook posts covered in exclamation points, and realize that they don’t have to wait for the sequel because Mousemobile will be out in October, and they’ll buy that book too, and maybe write to their uncle in Hollywood about how there could be a great movie and. . .

Stop it!

I shall school myself not to expect too much of Mousemobile (or Mouse Mission or Mouse Menace, which I hope will follow) so that whatever happens will be wonderful.

Prudence's last blog post for me was her rescue of a rat named Fido.

Fido the Rescued Rat by Prudence Breitrose
Fido the Rescue Rat

My son, Charlie, refers to it as “Fido’s origin story,” and there was certainly something mythical about it, because of all the ways to get a new pet. . .

We were low on animals at the time. We’d lost two goldfish, our hamster had recently died, and the two box turtles–Bugs Bunny and Explorer–were not exactly sociable.

I was shopping at our local family-owned grocery store–can’t remember what it was that I needed to get, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a rat.

I was near the front of the store, where paper sacks were lined up waiting for delivery, when I became aware of a surge of excitement–the sort of EEEKing and squawking that tends to go along with rodents. A grocer went barreling by, yelling,  “Get it out of here!”  Another was shouting, “Kill it!”

And there, sticking his head out of one of the paper sacks, was a rat. Not one of our local roof-rats, which do look a bit sinister–so sinister that we prefer to call them ‘rabbits’ to take the edge of a visit to the garage at night. No, it was one of the prettiest rats I’d ever met, softly patterned in brown and white.

This was before I became part rodent myself–before I thought myself into the heart of mouse society for my series of books set in the Mouse Nation. But like my fictional mice, I did manage to react with lightning speed.

“Stop!” I shouted to the rampaging grocers. “Triple bag that rat. I’ll take him!”

Poor Fido! Who knows what had happened to him before he found himself in that paper sack, then triple-bagged? He seemed traumatized. We made him comfortable in the old hamster cage, then bought him his own palace, a three-story condo that sat in the corner of the kitchen where he could feel he was part of the family.

We invited him out. After closing all the kitchen doors, we would leave his cage door open. But for a while Fido wasn’t interested in freedom. Didn’t want to stick a paw outside his home. And if my son took him out of the cage he would sprint back to it at the first opportunity.

“I guess it was weeks,” Charlie remembers now, “but if felt like months before he’d come out on his  own.”

Fido’s emergence happened gradually, a few steps at a time, still punctuated by sprints back to safety. But at last he seemed to trust us, and to take pleasure in exploring his surroundings. At last he was happy to hang out with his humans, and climb on Charlie from time to time, which he remembers as kind of scratchy.

Charlie and Fido
The only down side was that my daughter insisted on rodent-parity and we bought her a pretty white mouse. Disaster! Unlike Fido, the mouse showed no interest in humans and seemed to have only one talent – to smell so bad that she had to be exiled from the kitchen.

I can’t remember what happened to the mouse, but Fido went on to achieve pet immortality, with an honored place in the rose-bed.

Prudence Breitrose is the author of the marvelously
inventive Mousenet