Ratatouille meets Roald Dahl in the funny and fantastical story of a determined mouse on a mission to procure the world's tastiest cheese. From the author of A Boy Called Christmas--coming soon to Netflix!
When Nikolas left the only home he had ever known, it was a mouse named Miika who kept him company, and it was Miika who accompanied him on his journey to the Far North, in search of his father. But before the events of A Boy Called Christmas, this little mouse was the hero of his own story.
A Mouse Called Miika is an epic adventure story on a miniature scale. It's a tale of mice and men (and more mice). It is about one independent mouse who gets fed up with the other mice, and sets out on a quest of his own to prove that cheese exists, and learns to appreciate other creatures. It is also a tale of great love (of cheese) and great danger. And learning the lesson that, with cheese, as with life, what matters most is not how strongly you smell, but how strong you are on the inside.
Funny, cheeky, wise, and packed full of Matt Haig's signature warmth. This is set to become a year-round children's favorite.
An Excerpt fromA Mouse Called Miika
A Tale of Two Mice
Two mice were sitting in a forest, leaning against a pine cone.
They were friends. And they looked quite ordinary. They had ordinary dark eyes, ordinary pink noses, ordinary tails. One mouse was a bit scruffier than the other.
Where they lived, though, was quite un-ordinary. Because where they lived was the Far North.
At the very top of a country that humans call Finland is a little town called Elfhelm, which is the most unique place on the whole planet. A place you won’t find on any map. A place full of brightly colored wooden houses on winding streets. A place full of elves and flying reindeer and the occasional pixie.
One of the mice was called Miika. He was the less scruffy of the two, but still a little bit scruffy. The brown fur on his chest and tummy was often dotted with mushroom crumbs. Unlike his friend, Miika liked the elves, the reindeer, and the pixies of Elfhelm.
“I’m glad I found you,” he said, gazing through the snow-dusted trees.
“And why is that, Miika?” asked the other mouse, who had mud on her fur and frost on her whiskers. The one whose name was Bridget the Brave. Well, really she was just called Bridget, but she always made Miika (and everyone else) call her Bridget the Brave. Because she was that sort of mouse. A mouse with attitude.
“Because I don’t feel alone anymore. I have found someone who is just like me.”
Bridget the Brave laughed. She looked past the tall pines, down toward the colorful wooden houses of the elf village that she hated so much. “You’re not like me, Miika.”
“Well,” she said, “I am Bridget the Brave. I am fearless. You are not. That’s one difference.”
Miika wondered what else made them different. But he was too scared to ask.
So he just sat there, staring at the mushroom in front of him, and remembered his early life, when he lived in a dark and damp tree hole. . . .
The Mouse with No Name
The first thing you should know about Miika is that he wasn’t always called Miika.
When he was very little, he had no name at all.
It wasn’t because mice don’t give each other names. Because they do. Of course they do. It’s just that normally parents give baby mice their names when they are born, and the trouble with Miika’s parents was that they didn’t actually know he existed.
The reason his dad--Munch--didn’t know Miika existed was because when Miika was born, Munch was being eaten by a great gray owl. And it’s hard to be a good parent when you’re busy being digested.
His mum--Ulla--had less of an excuse because she was, at least, alive. But she was very, very, very tired.
And the reason she was very, very, very tired was because Miika wasn’t her only little mouse.
In fact, Miika was one of many little mice.
He was the thirteenth--and last--of the litter.
And though Ulla named the other twelve offspring who arrived that night, she had fallen fast asleep by the time she got to Miika.
When she woke up, Miika was just one of one hundred and nine mice she had given birth to that year, in a total of eleven litters. While some of those other babies were already brown and furry, unlike the pink and hairless gang of newborns, she still found it difficult to keep up with them all. And so she didn’t bother, and Miika spent his first few days and weeks believing he was called “That One” or “Him over There” or “Please Get Off” or “Your Bum Is in My Face.”
And Miika spent those early days very hungry indeed. He was the weakest, smallest, youngest, most ignored and underfed mouse in the whole crowded, dark, damp tree hole, and probably had the rumbliest tummy in the entire universe.
But one day something happened.
Ulla returned with a special find.
“This,” she told all the little mice as they gathered round, “is something really quite exciting. It is a whole button mushroom. The best in the forest! Since we’ve already eaten today, we’ll all go to sleep now and have it for breakfast tomorrow.”
But Miika thought, Hang on a minute. I haven’t eaten today.
And he remembered the last time his mum brought home a mushroom for breakfast.
He had been pushed aside and squashed and squished and squeezed, and in the end had been left with only the tiniest of crumbs.
So this time he decided to do something different.
That night, when all his brothers and sisters were sound asleep, he quietly crept over to his snoring mum and stared at the mushroom she was hugging in her sleep.
His stomach rumbled.
He stared and he stared and he stared.
And he knew that if he waited until morning, he wouldn’t get a bite of the mushroom. And it looked so tasty.
So he did something terrible.
He gently tugged the mushroom out of his mum’s arms and had a tiny nibble.
And then he had another nibble.
And he kept nibbling until the whole mushroom was gone.
And then he tiptoed far away and lay down and fell asleep. It was the best sleep he had ever had in his whole short life because it was the only time he’d had a full tummy. And there is no sleep as good as a full-tummy sleep.
And he stayed fast asleep all night until a scream pulled him out of happy dreams. “WHO STOLE THE MUSHROOM?” Ulla roared at her drowsy litter. Well, maybe not roared. When a mouse roars, it’s loud only if you happen to be another mouse. Anyone else would hear just the tiniest of tiny squeaks.
But to Miika it was a roar, and he felt so scared that he shook like a leaf in the breeze and said nothing.
He said nothing all day. And he said nothing all night.
He was so scared he would get found out that he felt sick. He needed to escape. But where could he go?
Then he overheard his sister Yala talking to one of his brothers about something called the World Outside.
“The World Outside is a very dangerous place full of deadly creatures called crows and owls and hawks and humans. But it also contains food. Mushrooms and insects and something wonderful known as cheese.” Yala’s shiny black eyes were wide open, and her tail was flicking with excitement, in time with every word.
Miika also heard her give his brother some advice, and Miika pretended the advice was really for him.
“In this world, little brother, it is best to care only about yourself. As soon as you start caring about others, you have to deal with all sorts of problems. So head for the cheese whenever you can. If you find enough cheese to live on, you will never--and I repeat, NEVER--want for anything else. That is as good as life gets.”
Miika’s ears pricked up at the mention of cheese, but he pretended to be asleep. He knew they wouldn’t want him to join in if they saw him listening, so he stayed very still, curled up on a muddy leaf, and listened in the damp and the dark as if he were hearing a message just for him.
The next morning, Miika scrambled over a hundred sleeping mice.
“Sorry . . . sorry . . . sorry . . . oh . . . so sorry!” he said as everyone tutted and squeaked and grumbled and ouched at him.
And then he reached it.
The glowing, glorious, terrifying light.
The entrance to the tree hole.
He peeked out and saw blue sky and frosted grass.
It was the scariest--and most beautiful--thing he had ever seen.
But he would do it. He would leave the tree hole.
Going outside seemed less scary than being found out as the mushroom thief. He would venture into the World Outside with nothing at all.
(And his guilty secret.)
Miika looked back at all his brothers and all his sisters, scuttling around, play-fighting, or snoozing.
“Well . . . bye, everyone. I am going to go into the World Outside.”
But no one was listening. His words fell unnoticed, like snow thawing to rain before it hits the ground.
“Bye, Mum,” he said, trying to keep the sadness from his voice. “I’m scared. . . .”
But Ulla just rolled over in her sleep. And Miika left the darkness and the damp and his siblings and headed out into the world.
Out in the World
For days and weeks after leaving the tree hole, he spent every night shivering from cold and fear, never finding enough mushrooms to eat, sleeping under soggy leaves and dreaming of having a full tummy.
Then one day he found a little house in the woods. A human house. Where a woodcutter lived with his son, Nikolas.
There he found comfort and a warm fire. Nikolas became his friend and taught him how to speak human words. And it was Nikolas who gave him his name--Miika.
When Nikolas’s father failed to return home from a voyage, Nikolas took Miika on a perilous journey to find him. They shared a big adventure in the Far North. And Miika felt like they were the best friends in the whole world.
After that, they decided to stay in Elfhelm with the elves. Miika didn’t meet any other mice there, but he learned all about magic spells (or “drimwicks,” as the elves called them), about pixies who could only tell the truth, and, best of all, about elf cheese.
So it was a joy when Miika finally found another mouse to hang out with. Bridget the Brave lived in a tree with a messy hoard of mushrooms and stolen cheese. Unlike Miika, she wanted nothing to do with the other creatures of the Far North.
Not even the reindeer.
A Mouse, a Human, and a Reindeer
So that brings us to right now. Where we started. The day that Miika and Bridget the Brave were leaning against the pine cone.
After they shared a mushroom, Miika left his friend and walked back down through the snowy forest of the Wooded Hills, down to Elfhelm. On the way, he bumped into an elf called Loka, who said hello and gave him a large crumb of cheese.
An hour later, Miika was still nibbling on that delicious elf cheese as he rested against the big brown furry belly of his favorite reindeer of all, Blitzen.
“I think this is the best cheese Loka has ever made,” he told the reindeer. “She is so kind. She deserves better than Moodon. I mean, I know he’s nice--you know, in that elf way--but she should never have married him.” He sighed. “I’m not saying she should have married me. I mean, that would have been weird. A mouse and an elf probably wouldn’t have worked out. But Moodon? He’s such a mudfungle.”
“Mudfungle” was a word that Miika had learned from his friend the Truth Pixie. He didn’t know what it meant, but he knew it was incredibly rude because he had asked the Truth Pixie to say the rudest word she could think of and she had said “mudfungle.” And she was the Truth Pixie, after all, so she couldn’t lie.
Blitzen said nothing. Blitzen never said anything. Blitzen just lay there in the snow of the Reindeer Field, watching his reindeer friends chasing each other around in the air above and (possibly) wishing the mouse would leave him alone.
Miika heard voices and turned to see Nikolas walking briskly across the field, making boot prints in the snow. His head was bowed, and he was busy talking to some elves from the workshop.
“Hi!” said Miika. “Woo-hoo!” He tried calling the boy’s name. “Nikolas! Nikolas!” And then he tried the boy’s nickname--the name Nikolas’s mum used to call him. “Christmas! Over here! It’s me--Miika!”
“Oh, hi, Miika,” said Nikolas, smiling. He kept on walking. “Sorry. We’re in a bit of a rush. I’d love to stop and chat, but there’s an Elf Council meeting in two minutes. It’s quite urgent. It’s about gingerbread supplies. See you later!”
Miika smiled back, trying to hide his sadness. “Okay, yeah, fine. Totally. See you later. . . . I’m just hanging out with Blitzen. You know, buddy to buddy. We’re having a great time.” But deep inside he wished Nikolas had more time for him, like in the old days. But Nikolas--the only human for miles around--was so popular with the elves that he always had some important thing to do. He’s not even an elf, Miika thought grumpily. He cheered himself by remembering that he didn’t really need Nikolas because most afternoons he spent his time with another friend--Bridget the Brave, his mischievous companion.
But then he remembered what Bridget had said earlier. About him lacking courage. Maybe he did need to work on being fearless. Like Bridget the Brave was.
He turned to the reindeer. “Can we fly, Blitzen?”
Blitzen yawned and gave Miika a frowning kind of look.
Miika knew he was pushing his luck. “Please, Blitzen! Come on, big guy! It’ll be fun. I’ll just hold on to your neck.”
Blitzen didn’t move.
“Look, it’s nearly dark now. And it’s getting cold. It’s a long way for me to walk back to the Truth Pixie’s house. You could fly me there!”
Blitzen sighed again. But this was a different sigh. It was an Okay, then. Climb on, you annoying little mouse type of sigh. So Miika grabbed hold of the warm reindeer’s belly hair and climbed up onto his back as Blitzen got to his feet.
“Thanks, my friend,” said the mouse.
And then they were off. Galloping across the snowy field, which even in the middle of summer was as white and fluffy as a beard.
Then came Miika’s favorite part. The magic part. He listened very hard to hear it. Or, rather, not hear it. The moment Blitzen’s hooves stopped pounding against the ground and trod silently against the cold north air itself.
Up and up, against the laws of gravity, and into the sky.