Charlie & Mouse, Book 1

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Charlie & Mouse, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Charming early reader about two adorable brothers.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The book's an early reader, so it's designed to be educational and help kids gain confidence reading independently. There's repeated vocabulary for ease of reading. And it introduces kids to simple chapters, including a short table of contents.

Positive Messages

Diverse and inclusive families and communities are happy ones. Kids can have ideas and make them happen. Brothers can get along, and older siblings can include younger in their play. Boys can wear tutus. Life's small, daily adventures are fun.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Charlie's a likable protagonist who has a good relationship with his little brother and includes him in his daily adventures. Charlie has kid-like ideas and works to make them happen. The parents are easygoing and accommodating, incorporating the kids' ideas into their daily plans and routines. The diverse inhabitants of the community all get along. The girls pictured are active, climbing trees and balancing on porch rails.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Charlie & Mouse, by Laurel Snyder (Orphan Island) and illustrator Emily Hughes, is the first book in a series and the winner of the 2018 Geisel Award, a prestigious award given to a distinguished book for beginning readers. It's a sweet book that spreads its gentle humor and everyday adventure across four short chapters, featuring two brothers with a loving friendship that brings to mind the classic Frog and Toad books. Charlie and Mouse enjoy a warm family life in a cozy, diverse neighborhood. Their mom and dad appear to be white and Asian, and their neighbors include people of color and an interracial gay male couple. There's repeat vocabulary for beginning readers, and the little adventures are believably kid-like, led by Charlie's imagination.

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What's the story?

CHARLIE & MOUSE is composed of four short chapters, each with a simple vignette. In the first one, Charlie wakes up his brother Mouse and his parents early in the morning in anticipation of a neighborhood party. In the second, Charlie and Mouse collect neighborhood friends and parade to the playground, where it turns out that they themselves are the party. In the third, the brothers attempt to make some money by loading up their wagon with rocks in hopes of selling them to the neighbors. And in the final story, their mom agrees to their request for "a bedtime banana" as she tucks them into bed.

Is it any good?

You can't get much sweeter than these two irresistible brothers, who make their own fun in four simple stories that evoke a playful, easygoing childhood. The chapters in Charlie & Mouse are episodic and short, but structured shrewdly. In "Rocks," the boys collect rocks to sell to the neighbors for spending money. Though the neighbors don't want to buy rocks, they offer to pay them to remove some, so the boys earn just enough for an ice cream each -- leaving them back where they started. The dialogue feels real. When the boys ask for "bedtime bananas," the mom says, "Is that a thing?" and "Sweet dreams, little monkeys." The first two stories are linked, and the last one references the first, ensuring a satisfying, rounded feel.

Illustrator Emily Hughes has created a lovable crew of mop-top urchins and infuses the illustrations with humor. When the brothers rouse their parents at 5:45, the dad looks seriously bleary-eyed. And in one of the book's funniest pictures, when Charlie wishes for some money, he and Mouse are shown tearing apart the couch cushions, where we see a remote and a book, but no coins. Hughes supplies much of the relaxed diversity. When Mouse troops off to the neighborhood party, he's wearing a pink tutu. And the boys stop for ice cream at "Sakamoto's Shave Ice."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the kids in Charlie & Mouse. Do you ever get ideas to do or plan things like they do? What are your ideas? Do you involve your siblings and friends?

  • What do you know about this family and this neighborhood from the words in the story? What do you know about it from the pictures in the art?

  • Have you ever read a book with chapters before? Do these chapters feel like separate stories to you? How do they work together to make one story?

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