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The Mice of Bistrot des Sept FreresThe Mice of Bistrot des Sept Freres by Marie LeTourneau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a wonderful, wonderful story!

In The Mice of Bistrot des Sept Frère, its beautiful illustrations make the book. Set in a petit bistro in France, it is the story of a restaurant run by a family of mice. Each of the mice is unique in its own character and the illustrations depicted are both elegant and witty. It is satisfying to read a children's story book in which family members come together bringing their own individual strengths to the family as a whole to solve problems in times of crisis.
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I find it worthwhile to note that the family appears to be motherless. The bistro is run by Chef Marcel, father to the "Sept Frère," the Seven Brothers, whom the bistro is named for. The last member of the family of French mice is Petite Michelle, the youngest and only female character in the book. When introduced, she appeared almost as an afterthought, lost in the patriarchy of a large family dominated by talented males with valuable skills in the family business. Petite Michelle likes ballet and “helps out here and there.”

I admit it. Even while charmed by the clever characters (a French/beatnik/sensitive/poet mouse can only be seen as endearing) my feminist feathers were ruffled.

They shouldn't have been.

In the midst of chaos, while the rest of the family is in a panic, breeding even MORE chaos, the youngest sibling, Petite Michelle effortlessly glides from situation to situation, putting out fires and generally saving the day in general, enabling the family to staunch the crisis and enjoy their happy ending.

While I’d have preferred her character to have taken on a more obvious role as a strong, female rather than adhering to qualities that typify gender-stereotypes, (the youngest, working in the background, not assigned to a specific or valuable task in the family business in a meaningful way they contributes to the family) I must concede that children think and view the world in extremes, and would likely identify with her in that small children tend to feel powerless in a large world. That Petite Michelle emerges from the shadows and proves herself to be calm and capable in a way that her father and older siblings cannot was a wonderful and enjoyable turn that will leave children feeling vicariously empowered and hungry for more.

Bon appétit.

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