If you loved last year’s award-wining title, ‘The Umbrella Mouse,’ you are going to love this gripping sequel full of treachery, distrust and the power of hope.
Following their legendary escape from the Nacht und Nebel camp, Pip and the other members of the Noah’s Ark resistance movement have regrouped and are honouring their fallen comrades before moving to the next phase of their perilous journey to Paris.
But they’re being hunted down by a fearsome flock of Butcher Birds and a pack of snarling wolves who are bent of revenge. Unsure who to trust and hunted by the enemy, the team must keep their wits about them if they are to survive.
This is a gripping read. Packed with moments of high tension and true friendship, I would certainly recommend this for children aged 9+. It gives fascinating insights into how dangerous life in the French resistance may have been and how ruthless the axis powers were. There are also moments of interrogation and attack which may upset younger or more sensitive readers.
I was able to ask author, Anna Farger some questions about the creation of Umbrella Mouse; here’s what she had to say:
Q1. Did you find it easier or more difficult to write the second Umbrella Mouse adventure?
The second book was easier in terms of plot, characters and world building, and I had also done so much research for The Umbrella Mouse, which made it easy to get quickly stuck into the sequel. Although I had no idea how complex the events surrounding the Liberation of Paris were until I was already writing the second book.
Umbrella Mouse to the Rescue was also was harder in terms of deadlines. I originally wrote the first book at my own leisure on my phone’s notepad during my commute on the London Underground. I always dreamed of getting it published, but I wasn’t sure a story about a mouse that lived inside an umbrella and joined the French Resistance would ever make it. Also, I was aware that sequels can sometimes disappoint fans of the original book, so I really wanted to make it the best story it could be.
Q2. Which character’s journey through the books has surprised you the most?
As I originally wrote The Umbrella Mouse as a standalone, it’s been such fun taking Pip to Paris for an entirely new adventure. I haven’t been that surprised about her emotional journey and her growth through her experiences, as that was always deliberate, but to have two books devoted to her has been a lovely big surprise to me at least.
Q3. Madame Fourcade was inspired by real-life resistance leader, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade. Are any other characters inspired by real people?
Yes, there are a couple more in The Umbrella Mouse: the German resister rat, Hans, is based on Hans Scholl who was a founding member of ‘The White Rose’, an intellectual and a non-violent German resistance group that operated in Munich, and Léon the eagle was inspired by Léon Faye who was Marie-Madeline Fourcade’s closest ally and the second in command of Noah’s Ark. In Umbrella Mouse to the Rescue, the white mouse Nancy is based on the real-life SOE heroine Nancy Wake, who fought with rural bands of the French Resistance, The Maquis.
You’ll also meet a kingfisher that is inspired by Noor Inayat Khan, another British SOE heroine who was the first female radio operator to be sent to France to help the French Resistance. There are also more members of Noah’s Ark that are loosely based on the people who had the codenames Wolf, Magpie, Ermine, Spider, Firefly and Canary.
Q4. This story focuses on themes of treachery and interrogation in a way which I haven’t often seen in children’s books. How did you ensure this was done in a truthful but appropriate way?
Treachery and interrogation were as innate to the French Resistance’s experience as characters are to a story. Betrayal was rife. The enemy would capture any suspect they saw fit and their grim ways of extracting information were incredibly effective. Everybody feared being interrogated because no one can guarantee their silence when faced with that kind of suffering. This meant every person connected to you could cause your downfall. As Resistance stories, The Umbrella Mouse books had to capture that threat, but obviously, neither book has very violent or disturbing scenes, which would have been more historically accurate. To convey the peril, I relied on dialogue and the characters’reactions. For the scenes themselves, I focused on mental, not physical cruelty.
Q5. You’ve created such a vivid landscape in your book. How did you ensure all the details were authentic?
Thank you! That’s due to tons of research. I read lots of historical non-fiction, particularly Matthew Cobb, whose books on the French Resistance are amazing. I also read everything about Madame Fourcade and Noah’s Ark that I could. This was pretty much just her badly translated and truncated memoir until Lynne Olson, an American historian, published Madame Fourcade’s Secret War last summer. I spent ages in The Imperial War Museum (their research room is incomparable), watched documentaries, read more biographies on Nancy Wake and Noor Inayat Khan, and I referred to lots of photographs. I also went to Normandy, Gignese and Auschwitz, and I spent a week in Paris researching the city, its catacombs and its liberation from Nazi rule in 1944.
Q6. Did you read a lot of historical novels when you were younger? What would you recommend?
I did, I always loved how historical fiction felt like time travelling. My favourites in childhood were: Goodnight Mr Tom, Carrie’s War, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, War Horse, The Island of the Blue Dolphins, Little House on the Prairie and The Alchemist’s Cat.
Absolutely fascinating! I shall definitely be taking a look at some of Anna’s recommendations. Make sure you do too!
*Thank you to Macmillan Publishing for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour. Make sure you visit some of the other stops as well*