Clarice the Brave

Clarice the Brave book

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Book Review

Mutiny on the high seas separates Clarice—a young ship mouse—from her runt-of-the-litter brother, Charles Sebastian. Now she has to brave all manner of threats to find her way back to him. And one of those threats is a hungry cat!

Plot Summary

Plans take time. They take thought.

Clarice’s mother always told her that the only good cat is a fed cat, for instance. That’s something wise to think on. In fact, every mouse would say the same, no matter if they lived in a hollowed-out knothole onboard a ship or in a kitchen pantry on land.

For her part, Clarice is a ship mouse. Or at least, she used to be. These days, she’s not sure what kind of mouse she is. And in the current situation, she may not even be a living mouse much longer.

But perhaps I ought to start by telling you what her current situation is. And how she got here.

It all started when the humans onboard the ship Carlotta began using a new word: Mutiny! Clarice and her runt-of-the-litter brother Charles Sebastian weren’t sure what the word meant as they listened from their home in a crate of coffee beans. But if the whispered uses of the word were any indication, it wasn’t something good.

And then that mutiny thing happened.

Sailors began running around with their thumping boots, swinging swords and raising screams of fear and anger. And before you knew it, Clarice found her crate of beans tossed on a small launch along with the ship’s captain and his loyalists. And Charles Sebastian—who ran at the first sign of danger—ended up left behind on the Carlotta.

“It only takes one mouse to believe in you, and that mouse is me!” Clarice squeaked up to her frightened brother as the small launch began to pull away. Clarice’s mother had said that to her once. And it had given her courage. She hoped it would help Charles Sebastian be as brave as he needed to be. He had to survive on his own now that she wasn’t there to protect him.

Is it possible that she, a mere mouse in a group of humans, could find her way back to the only one she loved in the world? She clings to that hope. But it doesn’t look good.

It has now been days since she was separated from Charles Sebastian. The little leaky boat she’s on is packed with a dozen humans with heavy deadly boots. They’re angry, sun-blistered and famished. I mean, who knows what a human will eat if it gets hungry enough.

Of course, little Clarice does know what a hungry cat will want to eat. And Special Lady, the captain’s cat, hasn’t been afforded any of the boat’s sparse food supplies over the last several days. She hasn’t seen Clarice quite yet, but it’s only a matter of time on a tiny boat like this.

Yes, the only good cat is a fed cat. And if she doesn’t want Special Lady to fill her belly the, uh, hard way, Clarice better use her smart little mouse brain.

She needs to come up with a plan.

Christian Beliefs

No mentions of faith or God. However, Clarice does try hard to stay optimistic and fight against the obvious negative odds.

Other Belief Systems

None.

Authority Roles

Clarice’s mother is loving and good. But she’s swept overboard by a rogue wave not long after telling Clarice how much she believed in her. Still, Clarice takes her mother’s words of bravery and love to heart. And not only does she share them with her brother, but others she meets, too. And in each case, those comforting words of support strengthen the hearer to try harder and live up to the faith put in them.

In fact, Clarice’s bravery even helps her form a bond with the most unlikely of allies. And the story suggests to young readers that the worst of enemies can be transformed into friends (and sometimes the dearest of companions) with the right amount of effort, love, support and established trust.

The humans in this story, however, are not prime examples of good authority figures. (More like cautionary tales.) From the Captain to the least of the sailors, they tend to be at least somewhat deceitful, angry and untrustworthy. “Humans emanated deceit like a soft mist,” Clarice tells us. “But other humans rarely seemed to detect it.”

The one exception is a young girl being held captive by the mutineers who forms a bond with the mouse Charles Sebastian and helps him survive. She, in fact, is the only human who ends better than she began.

Profanity & Violence

There’s a single exclamation of “Dear God!” And Clarice references a point where, “The sailor’s language grew salty and colorful.”

Sailors drink grog and rum. Charles Sebastian samples the grog and finds it bitter and unpalatable.

The forced mutiny is implied to be violent. And we hear of a young girl who’s kept chained and bound in an iron cage for days—the ropes chaffing her wrists raw. But there’s nothing bloody described.

On the captain’s launch, however, the men and women are blistered by the sun, battered by storms and left to starve for days. One man goes mad from lack of water, drinks salt water and dies painfully. A young boy is hit and wounded and later dies from infection and the harsh conditions. We hear of several humans who die in the course of the torturous journey and are thrown overboard or left behind.

We also hear of several deaths from a mouse’s perspective—including the demise of both Clarice’s mother and sister. A ship is set ablaze, which endangers a pair of mice and a cat. And the potentially deadly escapade is described in perilous detail. All involved in that escapade, however battered and burned, escape death.

Sexual Content

None, other than the implied relationship between Special Lady and another male cat. (Though the relationship is only described as close friends.)

Discussion Topics

Clarice’s story contains  some pretty sad moments. How did some of those make you feel? Why do you think the author put those things in this book? Is it OK to feel sad over bad things in your life? How did Clarice get past her sadness? What did those feelings teach her moving forward?

What do you think this story is saying about friendship? In fact, why do you think Clarice and Special Lady became friends? Does their relationship remind you of anyone you know or a friendship you have? How about the human reaction to things in this story? Were there many examples of humans doing good things for others?

Life in these times was pretty hard compared with what we often see in our daily lives. Can you think of things today that are really difficult and people that have a hard life? What can you do to help? What kinds of things help others around us?

What was your favorite part of this story?

Get free discussion question for books at focusonthefamily.com/magazine/thriving-family-book-discussion-questions.

Additional Comments

Clarice the Brave is a well-written adventure that prompts young readers to think about grief, loss and sadness. But it also praises the idea of facing adversity in life and growing stronger from the experience—ultimately moving beyond those sad moments to reaching out for the betterment of others. Unexpected friendship and the joys of creating loving relationships in life are key elements to the book’s well-crafted happy ending.

You can request a review of a title you can’t find at [email protected].

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not necessarily their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Review by Bob Hoose

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