The Mischievians

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
The Mischievians Book Poster Image
Funny encyclopedia of annoying things and who's responsible.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Dr. Zooper gives the kids a glimpse of his laboratory and offers them, and the reader, a chance to keep records for themselves of the Mischievians they encounter. Coming up with imaginative and logical -- though perhaps not really believable -- explanations also is part of the challenge.

Positive Messages

Personal investigation can result in imaginative results and explanations. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Though the premise is not realistic, the kids are inquisitive and excited about learning. Dr. Zooper is eager to teach.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Mischievians is an imaginative picture book with whimsical illustrations typical of books by author-illustrator William Joyce, and it has silly explanations for some of the things kids ask about. Although readers of all ages will find something to enjoy, the text may be a little complicated for younger kids but will tickle the funny bone of those in the primary grades. Also, it should give everyone plenty of opportunity to discuss things that annoy them. 

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What's the story?

A brother and sister are alarmed because things keep mysteriously disappearing in their home, including their already completed homework! When they go searching for answers, they are swooped down a tube that lands them in the middle of Dr. Zooper's lab. From that point on, THE MISCHIEVIANS presents one question-and-answer scenario after another accompanied by illustrations, which proves that the book is truly what it claims to be: \"an encyclopedia of things that make mischief, make mayhem, make noise, and make you CRAZY.\" From Homework Eaters and Lintbellians to Stickies, Heebie Jeebies, and more, these tiny creatures can be annoying but are not mean or malicious, and they are everywhere! On the last page, there's space for kids to report any Mischievian they encounter and make a drawing of it, give it a name, and state its size and history.

Is it any good?

As with any William Joyce book, the story's slightly offbeat, and kids and parents will enjoy it. The scenarios are imaginative, and the illustrations are absolutely captivating in their quirkiness. The questions about the little annoying mysteries of life will be familiar to most readers, though some mysteries resonate even more humorously with kids (the Danglers, Gigglers, and Pootles, for example).

The little arm reaching out and stealing a letter from the occasional page, the labeling of each scenario with a file number and name, and the endpaper encouraging kids to add to the study adds even more to the Dr. Zooper experience.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the various question-and-answer scenarios William Joyce presents. What do you think about Dr. Zooper's explanations? What kinds of things annoy you? Can you think of any other Mischievians you might add to the book? 

  • Do the illustrations in The Mischievians remind you of those in any other books you've read? What about Dr. Seuss? How do the illustrations help with the explanations? Or do they?

  • Did you notice that some of the letters are missing? Who's doing that mischief? What about the green, six-eyed creature peeking through the back page? What's he up to? What would you call him?

Book details

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For kids who love picture books and funny stories

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