Thursday, August 6, 2015

Learning from Picture Books: Hermelin the Detective Mouse

Here’s a true confession about me: When I was around 10, I used to make little mice out of pipe cleaners and felt, and created entire families and little houses, complete with their family trees.  So it’s not surprising that I went to find this book right away when it became available at my library.

Mini GreyHere’s the summary from Amazon:

Hermelin is a special little mouse. He was born in a box of cheese and lives in an attic at 33 Offley Street. He can read books and type notes on his typewriter. Most importantly, Hermelin can solve mysteries. And the people of Offley Street are in need of a detective!

Again and again, Hermelin is on the case—the anonymous hero. But when his neighbors invite him to a thank-you party in his honor and find out who Hermelin really is—a MOUSE!—will he still be welcome on Offley Street?

Hermelin, the Detective Mouse was written and illustrated by Mini Grey, and first published by Alfred. A. Knopf in 2013.

My thoughts as a writer:

The delightful illustrations of what was happening in the town, with small speech bubbles and “notices” captured my attention. But I also loved the charming voice of Hermelin, right from the opening line: “Well, I was trying out the new binoculars that I’d found in my breakfast cereal this morning.”

This will be an interesting book for both writers and illustrators to study. For writers, it’s an interesting example of a story told in first person, which is not that common in picture books. It’s also a mystery! Although I’m not an illustrator, I noticed lots of creative design elements in this book, such as notes typed on a typewriter, speech bubbles, labels on packaging, newspaper clippings, invitations, a dictionary and banners, as well as visuals that show a mouse’s perspective.

My thoughts as a teacher:

This would be a fun story to encourage students to pay attention to the world around them. It would be useful in teaching perspective-taking, and could be compared to the movie Ratatouille. Because of all the small signs and details, I think slightly older elementary students would enjoy it too.

Themes: detectives, being observant, city life, making friends

Ages: 4 – 8

Grades: K – grade 3

Follow-Up Activities:

Create your own detective character, and think of a mystery for them to solve. Create clues! Or, write about what mini-mystery Hermelin and Emily might solve next!

Study some different labels and see what words you can find!

Create a piece of art using labels, pieces of newspaper, lists and wrappers.

Draw a picture or write a story that describes how the world looks to a creature that is very different from yourself.

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