As a librarian, I think it is definitely my job to be the person who makes sure books that are not dull and lifeless are available for kids. If kids only want cats, librarians need to have tons of cat books. If the only person who can reach a kid who loathes reading is Batman, librarians need to stock up on Batman books.
So for the longest time now Capstone Stone Arch books about DC superheroes, anything by Dan Gutman, Dragonbreath, Babymouse, and books “written” by another mouse named Geronimo Stilton have been my go-to picks for parents concerned about their kids lack of interest in books. They also work for kids who are just moving out of Easy Readers and onto chapter books as well.
Of all these books, the only ones I never read or glanced much at were the Geronimo Stilton ones. Why? The books are already insanely popular. I also figured that books meant help reluctant readers care about reading are probably not going to win over an adult who reads way too much. And since Geronimo Stilton is basically an Italian Carolyn Keene-esque psuedonym, I never expected to pick those books up.
But lately my insomnia has gotten really, really bad. So, in addition to cutting back on time spent near or in front of a screen, I decided the best thing to do was to try reading something utterly frivolous, colorful, so short I could finish it in one sitting, and, most importantly, cheerful. Since rodent-related children’s books have rarely led my astray, I grabbed a stack of mouse adventures before heading home a couple of weeks ago.
I started off with Creepella Von Cracklefur, a spooky mouse writer who lives in a sort of Addams Family section of Mouse Island. And I could not put either the first or second book down. Since the next one isn’t out until February, I moved on to Geronimo Stilton, reading a graphic novel about going back in time to visit little Mozart and then several novel adventures featuring creepy counts and pirate cats. And even though I admit I’m not a fan of the Thea Stilton series, I have been hooked on everything else Stilton-related ever since.
Now I completely understand why these books work so well with kids who don’t want to read or even kids who normally would only read about superheroes. Because what makes anything Geronimo Stilton-related so successful is that it makes reading as active and engaging an experience as watching a cartoon on TV. Every page has heaps of colorful words in unique fonts, pictures, maps, room charts, factoid boxes, and much more. The characters engage in fun banter and tend to be fairly comical in their reactions to the unexpected. I like that there’s a family dynamic, but that there’s no pushy message involved. Geronimo just prefers traveling with his nephew, sister, and often is saddled with his cousin Trap.
I have never read books that do such a great job of not dumbing things down while telling a fairly simple, straightforward, lighthearted, and amusing story about journalist mice having madcap adventures. So kudos to Edizioni Piemme for figuring out a way to make books for reluctant/emerging readers lively and a pleasure to read! And nice work, Scholastic, for publishing these books in English.
I guess the only real downside to all this is it’ll be a bit harder to recommend these books when I have a decent chunk of them checked. Otherwise, I couldn’t be happier to have something a bit more soothing and amusing to read before trying to sleep, safe and sound in the knowledge that I’m not suggesting poorly written nonsense to kids.