Monday, January 18, 2016

MMGM- Adorable Talking Mice

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

While the books today seem a little young for middle school, they may not be. Since the Geronimo Stilton, Ricky Ricotta and Babymouse series all are checked out frequently by my struggling 6th graders, perhaps we have room for some more advanced easy reader books with talking mice. Oddly, I am okay with the mice talking as long as there are adorable pictures of them, and these books had great messages. 

25387373Dillard, Sarah. Mouse Scouts
January 5th 2016 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Copy received from the publisher

Tigerlily and Violet are very excited to move from Buttercups into the Acorn Scouts and are looking forward to getting their badges. When their leader, the stern Miss Poppy, tells them that the group will be planting a garden, the thought of growing their own food sounds good until the scouts realize how much work it will be. They learn that the garden must be watered regularly, they must fight off pests, and a garden, while rewarding, is a lot of work. 

Strengths: Not only does this have a lot of good information on what it is like to be a scout and how gardens must be tended, it frames the gardening in terms of what it is like to be a MOUSE gardening. That was quite fun! I would have loved this in the 3rd grade, when I was a Bluebird. There aren't many middle grade books about scouting, and certainly that is an activity in which many middle grade readers participate.

Weaknesses: The characters were all a bit stereotypical-- Junebug has glasses and allergies and spends many meetings reading books, Cricket is a glutton, Hyacinth is snooty, etc. The uniforms were skirted, which seemed unrealistic, especially when the scouts were gardening. I wish that this had a mixed gender troop instead; I think that boys could then be tempted to read it. 

What I really think: I will buy a copy of the first book and see how it does in my library. I enjoyed it, but it does look young. 

25387376Dillard, Sarah. Make a Difference: Mouse Scouts #2

January 5th 2016 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Copy received from the publisher

The troop is back, and this time they are working on their community service badges. The girls all have different ideas, but in the end, decide to pick up trash around their community. It's not easy, since they have to get the trash into a receptacle, but they use their scouting skills to get the job done. These skills also come in handy when a cat who is their nemesis gets caught in a tree.

Strengths: I like how the scouts all have different interests and abilities, and they are all allowed to use them. The inclusion of a diagram on how a pulley works makes this book STEM compatible!

Weaknesses: If the scouts get all of their badges, this will be an 18 book series! That's too long for my library, although I think the books will probably keep selling to elementary schools and to parents whose children beg for them. 

What I really think: I could probably support about five books in this series. 

Green, Poppy. A New Friend (The Adventures of Sophie Mouse #1)
January 20th 2015 by Little Simon

Sophie and her friends are excited to start school, but when a new student enters the room, they are all afraid. Owen is a snake! They have always heard bad things about snakes, so no one wants to play with him. Sophie feels bad that Owen is sitting alone, and talks to her mother about having a snake at school. Sophie's mother was friends with a snake when she was younger, and encourages Sophie to be open minded. When Owen is able to save the day because he is a snake, Sophie and her friends see the error of their ways and include him in their circle. 

Strengths: This book is nicely formatted-- a good length, large print, plentiful illustrations. I had a seventh grader check one out, and she actually came by later in the day to say that she'd read half the book and was enjoying it! Sometimes struggling readers feel a LOT better about reading when they have permission to read something easy and enjoyable! (This student had previously trying to get through Patterson's Confessions series because her friends were reading them. Made her miserable!)

Weaknesses: While this is a great lesson, it seemed a little didactic. This could just be how books for younger readers are. 

What I really think: Don't know that I will buy more books in this series, but certainly enjoyed the first one!

Of course, the master of any illustrations involving animals in Beatrix Potter! Here's a great nonfiction book to pair with lots of different fiction book!

25472758Hopkinson, Deborah and Voake, Charlotte. Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig
Copy provided by publisher (Cassie)
February 2nd 2016 by Schwartz & Wade

We were certainly fans of Beatrix Potter books in our house, and since 2016 marks the 150th anniversary of the author's birth, it was fun to see a copy of this picture book about an event in her life. Since Potter was a devoted animal lover as well as an artist, she had quite the menagerie growing up, and she did her drawings based on her observations of the animals. When she wanted to draw a guinea pig, she borrowed one from a neighbor, but it ended up eating paste and string in her work area and dying overnight. To try to make it up to her neighbor, she gave her a drawing of a guinea pig. 

Readers who love Potter's books, animals, or both will find the description of Potter's animals to be interesting, and will hopefully use this as a cautionary tale to take better care of animals!


  1. My students love the Babymouse books that I've purchased for my classroom library. So, I'm tempted to give the MouseScouts books a try. Thanks for the tip!

  2. I always need books like these for young readers not quite ready for the 60,000 plus word monsters. These sound perfect.

  3. Thanks for the heads up about the Mouse Scouts series. I've ordered the first three in the series. I suspect they will be very popular in my K - grade 7 library. I agree with you that sometimes we need to give kids permission to read easy text. I keep trying to encourage all readers to read picture books because there is so much more to them than their just being easy. Sometimes they aren't actually an easy read!

  4. They do sound like cute books for reluctant readers. I was a scout and would have enjoyed them in my youth. Nice choices today! Perhaps they are chapter books

  5. These sound interesting but not interesting enough to add them to my book order. I am being very selective with the little money I have left for this year. Here is what I read last week. Happy reading!

  6. I reviewed the Mouse Scouts today, too, Karen. Like you, I thought that the characters could have had a bit more depth, but that they were very fun overall. My kiddo is totally hoping for 18 books (though she would be too old by the time they all came out anyway).

  7. I have to admit, these all look pretty charming. Sometimes it's nice to pick up something short and sweet. I will keep these in mind. Thanks for the reviews.

  8. Oh, that Beatrix Potter story sounds a bit sad - the poor guinea pig! Bit of a funny lesson there - if you accidentally kill your neighbour's pet, be sure to give them a drawing of it to make it up to them ;)

  9. That Beatrix Potter book sounds lovely - my sixth graders love knowing stories from author's real lives, so this will make them very happy.

  10. I didn't know any of these series--thank you for sharing :)
    Happy reading this week!

  11. Oh it's great to see that there's going to be a PBB out on Beatrix Potter soon - I have yet to watch the movie based on her life, so I suppose I also have to catch up on that one. :)