Bookworm: Your child will like ‘Clarice the Brave’

‘Got Warrants?’ is just the ticket

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“Clarice the Brave”

  • By Lisa McMann, illustrated by Antonio Caparo
  • c. 2021, Putnam
  • $17.99, $23.99 Canada; 272 pages

When it comes to the rough times, whom do you trust? Can you talk to your parents, and tell them what's wrong? Do you have a teacher who listens to your concerns, maybe a neighbor or grandparent, a best friend or a BFF's mom? What about bullies or those people you try hard to avoid? As in the new book “Clarice the Brave” by Lisa McMann, can you trust your enemies?

"Clarice the Brave" by Lisa McMann, illustrated by Antonio Caparo.

“Mutiny” was a word Clarice had heard before, but it was one she didn't understand.

The humans aboard the Carlotta whispered it, so she knew it must mean something important. Oh, how she wished she could ask Mother, but Mother had been swept away by a wave of sea water. Clarice's sister, Olivia, had been eaten by the captain's pet cat, Special Lady. That left just Clarice and her younger brother, Charles Sebastian, but he was impulsive and too young to know much of anything.

Mutiny. The word finally made sense that chaotic night when the crate that Clarice was hiding in went whomp! overboard and into a small boat. Whomp! along with the captain, some of his most loyal sailors, containers of food and water, and Clarice. Whomp! and the cat, Special Lady, but not Charles Sebastian!

"Clarice the Brave" author Lisa McMann.

Clarice screamed for him, but he was on the Carlotta, way up high, and as the ship turned away from the tiny boat on the ocean, she became desperate. She thought she'd never see him again. Clarice's last words to Charles Sebastian were the same that Mother had once said to her: “It takes only one mouse to believe in you. And that one mouse is me.”

Aboard the dinghy, Clarice saw that the ocean was wide, the sun was relentless, and the food ran out quickly. There was death on the boat, but not hers: she made a survival pact with the cat who ate her sister, and that would have to work. Clarice had to keep the vow she'd made she'd find Charles Sebastian someday, no matter what...

Literally from its very first word, “Clarice the Brave” is irresistible.

It's a promise of adventure, one that'll pull a kid into this story as author Lisa McMann whispers hints of swashbuckling and danger. That's very underscored a few pages in, as readers learn how Clarice's sister died; later, there's a child who's painfully imprisoned in chains and some rather gruesome deaths from the elements. Nope, ain't no cartoonish mousie-tale here.

What'll keep a kid attached to this book, though, is a tender thread of cooperation and trust, as McMann's mouse figures out how to ensure her own survival by cat and by kindness. It's wise, but with a hint of edginess; there's also a lesson in there somewhere, if your child's so inclined, and it's a great fit for our times.

Perfect for kids ages 8-to-12, there's no reason that an adult like you couldn't enjoy this book enough to launch a discussion. Your child will like “Clarice the Brave.” You can trust that.

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“Got Warrants? Dispatches from the Dooryard”

  • By Timothy Cotton
  • c. 2021, Down East Books
  • $24.95, higher in Canada; 224 pages

License and registration? Yep, you've got that, and lucky you do because the folks in the car with the pretty blue and red lights on the roof probably won't take “no” for an answer. You need to walk the straight-and-narrow with them – sometimes quite literally – and don't think they won't tell. In the new book “Got Warrants?” by Timothy Cotton, even good cops can spill the beans.

"Got Warrants? Dispatches from the Dooryard" by Timothy Cotton.

Police Officer Timothy Cotton didn't much cotton to writing another book like his last one.

His first book based on the Bangor (Maine) Police Department's Facebook page was popular, but Cotton was afraid of burning out. Were people tired of reading about “real police reports about real situations that... officers run into”?

No, not a bit. Little did Cotton know that the department had fans and that people would be clamoring for more dumb criminal stories – tales like that of the couple “engaged in the age-old art of interpersonal-relationship building,” loud enough to bother the neighbors. Or the man who said, “he wasn't afraid of jail” and so he was ... escorted to jail. Sometimes, the BPD deals with folks in various stages of undress (and those viewing them, surreptitiously or not). Many calls start out innocently but don't end up that way.

Some calls are made over concerns of the consumption of “loudmouth soup.” Others come from establishments that kindly allow patrons to “pass the time between short sips from long-necked bottles.” Calls might come from passers-by, concerned about someone lying beneath a bridge with a similar bottle.

It's a good bet that said bottles are at fault for an awful lot of calls, in fact.

But before you start to think this is all fun and games, know that there are lessons inside this book: if you've got a few outstanding warrants hanging over your head, for instance, don't annoy the lady upstairs. Choose your friends wisely. And if you need the cops to help with your vehicle, don't leave bags of white powder lying on the passenger's seat.

Television is full of crafty criminals who elude detectives for months. Murder mysteries are chockablock with them – and yet, when it comes to crime, sometimes, you just got to shake your head. “Got Warrants” will make it positively rattle.

That's because the stories that author Timothy Cotton tells are “darn sure... dumb.” Most of them have Adult Beverages at root while others include illegal substances, neither of which are known for good decision-making. Cotton also writes of more gentle calls: noise complaints, small misunderstandings, and a dog he calls Bob who just wanted to play. Readers may become weary of too many annoyingly awful, abominable alliterations and snickery groaners, but the humor here is otherwise clear, and clearly enjoyable.

There are no big shoot-outs inside this book, no lengthy car chases or major drug busts, and nothing gruesome. You can happily give this book to grandma or a teen with a passion for law enforcement; for them, and for you, “Got Warrants?” is just the ticket.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books. Read past columns at marconews.com.