We recently finished reading Poppy and Rye by Avi (the second book in his “Dimwood Forest” series) with the girls, and as I closed the book, it dawned on me that in the last few months, we’ve used three different chapter book series about mice for our family read-aloud books! Each of these series is written on a different level and has a unique feel to it, so other than the mice, they don’t really have much in common… But I figured I’d share them anyway, because they all made for wonderful read alouds!
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To start our unintentional mouse-themed read alouds, we read Beverly Cleary’s “Ralph” series. While the 2nd and 3rd books in the series survived my classroom years, I couldn’t put my hands on the first one, which is the only one I remember having read prior to this spring. And y’all, the “Ralph” series is delightful! Cleary started with The Mouse and the Motorcycle, in which we meet Ralph, a mouse who lives in a hotel. Ralph isn’t just any mouse, though… He can talk to special people, people who tend to be more quiet and introspective and without as many human friends. One day, a young boy with the best motorcycle Ralph has ever seen. When the boy falls sick and no doctor can be found, Ralph risks his life to save the day, earning ownership of the beloved motorcycle in return.
That motorcycle survives through the series, taking Ralph to the Happy Acres Camp down the road when he decides to run away from the hotel (in Runaway Ralph, where Ralph befriends yet another lonely boy Garf), but is broken in a school fight in Ralph S. Mouse. Scenes that will make you and your children laugh out loud run through the series (I dare you to try to make Ralph’s motorcycle engine go by blurting out “Pb-pb-b-b-b” every time Ralph rides without cracking a smile), but Cleary also weaves beautiful themes of friendship and empathy throughout the books as well.
From there, we read most of the “Sophie Mouse” series by Poppy Green. Though only 2 books are featured, we read the first 6 books (Green has written 16 so far) and delighted in them all! Written with shorter chapters, a larger font, and illustrations on almost every page, the “Sophie Mouse” books are wonderful chapter books for newly independent readers. Sophie, the mouse and main character, has an incredibly kind heart and is a good friend to all around her, especially Hattie the frog and Owen the snake. The trio work their way through some sort of problem or adventure in every book, but the experiences are never scary. The friends’ positive traits such as kindness, hard work, and honesty get them through each challenge, yet the books don’t feel saccharine or didactic.
If you’re looking for a good first chapter book read aloud, or need books for your newly independent reader to read on his own, the “Sophie Mouse” series may be just the series for you!
Most recently, we read the 2nd and 3rd books from Avi’s “Dimwood Forest” series (though Poppy is technically the 2nd book in the series, it was the first book published, and I have to admit I’ve never read Ragweed, the first book in the series). While my girls enjoyed the “Ralph” and “Sophie Mouse” series, they absolutely loved Poppy, her friendships, and her adventures! Poppy is a young deermouse, a loyal family member, and a fierce friend. In both Poppy and Poppy and Rye, Poppy’s family and friends face danger and oppression in their current homes, and it is Poppy’s determination to make things right and keep the mice safe that wins out in the end. While we love Poppy’s courage and heart, our favorite character is Ereth, the grouchy, grumpy, and old porcupine whose soft heart shines through more and more as his friendship with Poppy blossoms. Avi does include some language such as “stupid,” but in a read-aloud setting, it was easy for me to either omit or replace the vocabulary that we try not to use with our girls.
Avi wrote 6 books in his “Dimwood Forest” series, and my girls are itching to hear the rest! You’d better believe we’ll be getting our hands on Ereth’s Birthday, the next book in the series, as soon as we can!
So… What mice-based series books do your children love? We may need to continue this theme through the fall!