The Prisoner's Aid Society is a network of mice with a mission similar to that of Amnesty International, that is to cheer prisoners and work for their release. To this end, they have selected to rescue a Norwegian poet, held on unspecified charges in a citadel called the Black Castle in an unspecified European country that may or may not be behind the Iron Curtain. To do so, they must enlist the aid of a mouse who knows a) local Mouse, b) International Mouse, and c)Norwegian. To find such a mouse, Bernard, a pantry mouse with the Tybalt Star (for bravery in the face of cats) sets out to engage the services of the premier diplomatic mind of mousedom, the fabulous Miss Bianca, who lives with the Ambassador's Boy in a Porcelain Pagoda and travels by diplomatic pouch.
Miss Bianca is, in a word, a piece of work: ravishingly beautiful, with a small silver chain about her neck, she embodies Fifties ladylike femininity to a degree not seen outside of Tennessee Williams. Charming, adroitly diplomatic, but I'm afraid, a bit of a ditz, who, with a sigh, owns that she "knows nothing about machinery", frets and has a headache at the least provocation, is a fanatic for interior decoration, and is too dumb to know that most cats just want to eat her. Nonetheless, she finds Nils, a Norwegian seafaring mouse (somehow the joke would work better with a *rat*, I think), and the three go off to rescue Mr. Poet.
In the Black Castle, they face Mameluke, "the Head's" (of the prison) black Persian, subject of several of Garth William's most startling drawings. For an illustrator who's been a cornerstone of cute, Mameluke, done with all the round furriness of his work with Golden Books, is truly shocking, with a malevolent glare and alarming teeth, setting off Miss Bianca's Madame Pompidor fragility. The Poet (humans aren't named in this book, but all animals are) undergoes a series of changes in the illustrations as he goes from stunned half-starved fatuousness to handsome young manhood.
The good points of this book are many, for a sensitive parent: it's a good way to open discussions of things like world politics and diplomacy and so forth with a child in a way that doesn't take sides. The bad points are, well, it's a very campy book: its view of prison life is roughly identical to that of the boys in Huckleberry Finn, its view of poets, that of the late 19th century, and that of women...well, let's just say that the last woman I knew who acted anything like Miss Bianca was a man. The Mameluke illustrations are VERY frightening, and so are some of the others. Still, it's a good book. Give it a try.