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Upstairs Mouse, Downstairs Mole story and pictures by Wong Herbert Yee, 48pp RL 1

Upstairs Mouse, Downstairs Mole is dedicated to, "Friends of Frog and Toad." And, while it is very much in the style of Frog and Toad, with two friends from the same species (rodent, not amphibian) who are thoughtful homebodies, neither has the neurosis of Toad nor the wisdom of Frog. Nevertheless, this is a great series of books that is perfect for a hungry new reader.

Mouse and Mole live in a tree. Mouse is upstairs in the trunk, Mole is downstairs under the roots. As they go about their days the encounter differences and conflicts but resolve them with care and understanding. Wong Herbert Yee, who is also the author and illustrator of the terrific Fireman Small picture books, draws rodents reminiscent of Kevin Henkes' Lilly and friends. Like his story, his illustrations are quiet, homey and simple, but not simplistic. And, the stories are funny and playful. Mishaps ensue when darkness-loving Mole visits Mouse's sunny kitchen and when Mouse gets a few bumps while dining at Mole's on lightly fried and raw worms. But, they each, in their own turn, realize that they are different creatures with different likes and dislikes and end the story by exchanging gifts to help out during subsequent visits - sunglasses and candles. In the last story in the book, Mouse and Mole have a grand time trying to row a boat with one oar and floating along in the rain.

For readers who aren't ready to make the jump to longer chapter books like Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House series, books like Upstairs Mouse, Down Stairs Mole, Frog and Toad and George and Martha and Houndsley and Catina are perfect in tone, content and length. The stories, though brief, have substance and value and are meaningful, unlike so many of the other mass produced beginning reader books. I think that, if they lived in the same countryside, Mouse and Mole would be friends of Frog and Toad as well as for friends of Frog and Toad.


Jeremy said…
Hey, you've mentioned the Magic Treehouse series a couple of times. I've been snobby about any series with 30+ books in it, but we just finished one and Ella adored it. Are there ones in the series to seek out or avoid?
Tanya said…
Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House series is excellent and so omnipresent that I figured I didn't need to review the series. However, since I usually mention it in the same breath as Junie B Jones, which I don't like, maybe I should do a post so people know what I think of them?

In a nutshell, I have read almost all of them and I think they are the best thing since sliced bread in the world of 2nd grade chapter books. I especially like the non-fiction companions that Osborne writes to accompany some of the books in the series. Osborne has also written an excellent collection of retellings of Greek Myths and American Tall Tales that are worth seeking out.

My only complaint about the Magic Tree House books is that she began publishing them in HARDCOVER a few years ago and it takes almost a year for them to go to paperback. Very few parents are willing to pay $12 for a book they think their kids will read in a day and never look at again.

As far as books to avoid in the series, they are all good and the great thing about the series is that readers can choose books by interest. One thing to be aware of, though - beginning with books 5,6,7,and 8, Osborne links them with a mission that jack and Annie complete over the course of the 4 books. If you look in the back of one of the most recent books there is usually a listing of the titles and the name of the mission for the various quartets. So, if your child is a devoted reader, they really need to be read in order...

Which book did Ella read? Glad she loved it!!
Jeremy said…
This is great to know -- thanks so much for the quick and thorough response. Sounds like this is a series we could really dig into over the next few months!

We read #36, Blizzard of the Blue Moon...she picked it at random in the library and we used it as a read-aloud bedtime story. I didn't mind it at all. She can read it, but it's probably just above her level and she struggles with following the narrative on her a read-aloud it was perfect.

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