Geronimo Stilton Series, by Geronimo Stilton, 116 pp, RL 3

Geronimo Stilton is a mild mannered mouse, editor of the Rodent's Gazette, New Mouse City's most widely read ("famouse," as Geronimo would say) daily newspaper. He is the devoted uncle to his nine-year old nephew, Benjamin and brother to his adventure loving younger sister Thea. In addition to calling him by annoying endearments such as "Geronimoid," "Geronimouse" and "Gerrykins," Thea is constantly dragging Geronimo along on her escapades, along with Trap, their annoying, plump, cousin. Any similarities to other children's books that have come before end here. The Geronimo Stilton books, despite the fact that Stilton himself is listed as the author, even on the copyright page, are written by Elisabetta Dami, and were first published in her native Italy in 2000. They have since been translated into 35 languages and made their American debut in 2004. The 40th and 41st book in the series are slated to be published in 2010.

Aside from the fact that this is one of the few series that is written at a solid third grade reading level, the Geronimo Stilton series is unique in that it is a cross between a graphic novel and a traditional chapter book. You feel a bit as though you have just watched an episode of a Saturday morning cartoon when you finish reading a Geronimo Stilton book. Not only are there colorful illustrations on every page, as well as many maps and a labeled illustration at the beginning of each book that tags all the characters in the series, but the text itself jumps off the page. Different fonts, sizes and colors are used to emphasize thoughts, dialogue and important plot points. To top it all off, Stilton and his friends frequently drop descriptives into the story that utilizes any words related to "mouse" and "cheese" to humorous effect. When Geronimo exclaims on the first page of the book he says, in bold yellow print, "Cheese slices!" Characters also utter, "Well, tickle me with a cat-fur feather!" and, "The enormous roots clung to the rock like a cat with a tuna sandwich." This is very entertaining and engaging and, with all the great graphics, sure to grab a reader's attention and hold it.

These books have boy and girl appeal, with Thea's roll in the story diminished only by the fact that it is her brother narrating the story. In fact, the series is now publishing special editions that are narrated by Thea herself. And, while every story involves a mystery or adventure, the plots are never too complex for readers to follow.

Scholastic is the stateside publisher of the Geronimo Stilton books and their website, titled The Rodent's Gazzette is passable. I much prefer the international website, Geronimo Stilton which prompts you to select your language with a telephone's ring then leads you into a much mousier world than the Scholastic site.

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