If you search back in my old blog posts you will understand that my school year was filled with stories of mice. We read way more than I had planned to about mice but we also had our own adventures with real mice running around hoping to learn new skills (I would guess that is what they were doing in my room) as I was teaching.
But that is an old story. We have a new story–Richard Pecks newest release The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail.
Peck sets this story in the Royal gardens of Buckingham Palace. Well, really in the Royal Mews. This is the royal stables with rooms above, but our interest is under these stables where a group of very important mice live and work. We learn that for every job a human holds in the castle there is a mouse that holds the same job and it is appears they are doing it better.
Our mouse of importance is still young and in search of who he really is and what his calling in life will be. He is a small mouse with no name and is picked on by his fellow students at the Royal Mews Mouse Academy.
This is a familiar story wrapped in new clothes and new adventures. We know the story of boy (mouse) living in poverty, without parents seeking his role in life and finding it in a very unexpected place.
It is a perfect read aloud for 2nd and 3rd grade students. Grades 4, 5 and 6 will find the story fun but as a teacher you need to keep a vocabulary chart running. Peck is a master storyteller who loves to use precise language. This means lots of new words are introduced as you read. Words like unprepossessing, preposterous, minuscule, insinuate prominence are scattered through out the text. (If you are lucky enough to be able to read this with students on e-readers with dictionaries you are set otherwise keep a dictionary at hand.) I love Pecks use of vocabulary and how he weaves it into the story. Learning vocabulary in context makes more sense for students.
This would be a good text to pair with The Tale of Despereaux for younger students, or Martin the Warrior (Redwall series) for more advanced readers. There is also Stuart Little but lets not start this list of mouse tales all over again.