Enjoying more beautiful springtime where I live - bees buzzing, daffodils pushing up, falling asleep to a good and loud thunderstorm, the whole bit. This week the literacy council in our city put together something kind of cool - a "read-in" at the local city park. They invited locals to bring a lawn chair or a picnic blanket and a good book and read out on the park green space. A reading flash mob if you will. It was quite fun. On to today's reading pick!
I love anything French. If you have anything you are trying to sell, slap a label with some French words on it, and I will buy it. There is just something about all things French that seem so attractive to me. This is the story of a mouse named Anatole who lives in a small village in France. Every night, Anatole and his buddies sneak into homes and restaurants to gather food for their families. One night, Anatole overhears a woman complain about the disgusting rodents that keep stealing her food, and he is saddened to hear her unsavory opinion of him. He tries to find a way to give back to the humans that give so much to him. He thinks up a plan to sneak into the local cheese factory at night and help the cheese makers with their recipes. He tastes each cheese and then sticks a little label on it with pointers like "needs more salt" or "just perfect". When the humans discover his critiques, they are amazed at his skillful suggestions and search for the cheese making genius named Anatole. He never reveals his true identity but is given a place of honor in the cheese factory.
I love how the illustrations are done in simple black, white, and grey sketches with splashes of the French national colors thrown in - red, and blue. The end pages of the book are striped like a French flag, and all of the mice wear scarves and berets. I read this story to my eight year old and my two year old at the same time and both enjoyed it. Since my kids are pretty spread apart age wise, it can be difficult to find books from which they both can get something. This book strikes a unique balance of appealing to a wide variety of ages. I think that is because little ones can follow the simple story of someone wanting to help someone else and the mouse drawings are cute while the older ones like learning the French language phrases peppered throughout the story.
Since the story illustrates a wide variety of cheeses, it was fun to go to the grocery store cheese counter afterwards and find the cheeses we read about! Reading about France makes me want to just jump on a plane heading for Paris. Le sigh.