Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kat & Mouse: Teacher Torture

Kat's father, a middle-school science teacher, has received a job offer at a prestigious private school in New Hampshire. The book opens as Kat and her parents leave Iowa and head across country in their rental truck toward their new life.

Kat feels a bit out of her element at the new school, where she has to wear an uncomfortable uniform and deal with snarky cliques and unfamiliar sports. Having her father as a teacher is also a bit embarrassing, but she makes friends with another relatively new student, Mee-Seen, known as "Mouse."

When someone steals the microscopes from her father's lab - and leaves a blackmail note for him, demanding high grades for everyone in the class, Kat and Mouse put their heads together to discover the culprit. They are both intelligent girls, and together, they discover, they make a great team.

I loved that the friends are puzzled by the obnoxiousness of the "popular" girls but clearly have no desire to emulate them or be part of their group. They are unabashedly intelligent, and they put their brains to good use. I also liked the fact that Kat's parents are not the two-dimensional parental constructs seen in many graphic novels. They are peripheral to the story, but we still see them dealing with their own challenges and issues.

The illustrations are clearly manga-inspired, but the faces in particular seem less stylized and more realistic than most manga. The artwork does a great job of depicting the emotional elements of each scene, and the mix of humor, mystery and school politics makes for an engaging read. I'm passing this one on to my 10-year-old, who I think will enjoy it, particularly the do-it-yourself science experiment that is included at the end of the book (which Kat and Mouse use in order to solve the mystery). I think this would appeal to fans of Baby Mouse, Fashion Kitty and, of course, Agent Boo (also by de Campi).

Books in the Kat & Mouse manga series:
1. Teacher Torture
2. Tripped
3. The Ice Storm

Teacher Torture (#1 in the Kat & Mouse manga series) by Alex de Campi and Federica Manfredi (Tokyopop, 2006)

Also reviewed at:
A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy: "...have a hard time now with books where that (being popular!) drives the character. I much prefer a book like this which is about having friends, having fun, but not sacrificing self."
Chicken Spaghetti: "The art is very appealing and de Campi writes her characters with a great sense of humor, making Kat and Mouse a fun read for any kid who enjoys a detective story."
The Shady Glade: "With art that is a little more realistic-looking than traditional manga, you can almost see yourself at Kat’s school."


  1. I love the idea of a do-it-yourself science experiment being included! I hope you continue with the series and keep reviewing them.

  2. Rhinoa - Oh, I will! I am curious to see if my daughter will be motivated to try out the project (which involves fingerprints and looks cool).

  3. Must. Get. This. Book. Our Summer Reading Club theme this year is "detectives" -- this would be perfect! Plus the Baby Mouse are heavily read at our library. Thanks Darla!

  4. Kiirstin - Excellent! This series sounds like the perfect fit. :-)

  5. Okay. I think I was better off when I didn't read your blog. lol I keep adding books to my list! Yeah, I know, not entirely a terrible thing!

    I am really good with computer breaks, huh? I was getting too far behind in blogs...

  6. Kailana - I did the same thing with a "break" a couple months ago when I was all panicked with my final course of graduate school - and the comprehensive exams. Then I found that posting about it and giving myself "permission" to post or not post made me feel less stressed about it. And really, what's the point of doing this if it's going to be stressful? Then I found that I could reward myself for time spent studying with time dedicated to blogging - so ended up using the blog as a break from everything else. I don't know if that even makes any sense. :-)

    Anyway, good to see you, and I'm pleased as always to add more books to your pile! :-D

  7. Just love this title. Sounds like a good start to a series too :)

  8. Ladytink - it is a good start, and I'm pleased to report that my daughter enjoyed it too - she read it all in one sitting and is ready for #2!

  9. Oh this looks so cute and fun! And a science experiment - very clever idea! Off to the library to put a hold on it now :)

  10. Joanne - I loved the story and the characters as a reader, and as mom/former teacher I loved that the girls are unabashedly intelligent and enjoy applying their brains and knowledge of science to problem (and mystery) solving. Hope you like it!


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