Clarice the Brave


Lisa McMann


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

January 24, 2023

saw an article in Illustrators Quarterly about the marvelous artwork of Antonio Caparo. Caparo apparently specializes in illustrating children's books. The paintings shown in the magazine were impressive. But alas, there is no book available of Caparo's artwork. I checked the library catalog for Caparo - and found Clarice the Brave. Caparo painted the excellent cover art, and also contributed about a dozen full page pencil drawings for the interior. My only regret is that the interior art was not in color.

When I reviewed Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, I commented on the number of children's books that star a mouse. Clarice the Brave is another mouse tale. The heroine is Clarice, a young mouse who lives on board the sailing ship Carlotta. Unfortunately for Clarice, there are three cats on board - Special Lady, Marigold, and Robin, and now Clarice's family has dwindled to just herself and her shy brother, Charles Sebastian. The two mice live hidden in a crate in the pantry of the ship, scrounging for food scraps. They overhear crew members muttering quietly about a "mutiny", but the mice do not know what that word means. But they quickly find out.

The mutineers strike, and their scheme is a success. The captain and his loyalists are forced into a small boat, and given a few crates of supplies which might be enough to last them to a safe harbor. Unfortunately, one of the crates that is selected to be placed in the captain's boat is the one where Clarice and Charles Sebastian live! Even worse, the evil cat Special Lady is prowling the deck, so Charles Sebastian runs from the crate in a panic, chased by the cat. One of the sailors sees Special Lady, and scoops her up and tosses her down into the captain's boat - she is his favorite cat. Charles Sebastian is not eaten, but Clarice finds herself on a crowded small boat, which includes a cat, while her brother is still aboard the Carlotta. As the Carlotta sails away, Clarice vows that she will be reunited with Charles Sebastian some day.

Clarice must face her immediate perils. She can hide in the crate, but she needs water, and it is difficult to be stealthy when the small boat is so populated with humans. The captain insists he knows how to sail to Kingsland, yet for weeks the small boat is adrift in the vast ocean. They suffer from heat and thirst, only saved by periodic storms, which unfortunately threaten to swamp the boat. Clarice must use her wits to survive.

The narrative jumps back and forth between the separate plights of Clarice and Charles Sebastian. Charles Sebastian finds himself alone on the ship, and he is unfamiliar with the layout, having lived hidden in the pantry most of his short life. The cats Marigold and Robin are still on board the Carlotta, and there are terrifying chickens running around loose on the deck. Oddly, one of the humans, a young female sailor, Benjoullon, is left in a cage on deck. Dare a mouse befriend a human?