I admit, because I’m one to judge a book by its cover, or a movie by its poster, I was slightly bummed when yesterday, at the book store, my six year old daughter chose Thea Stilton and the Dancing Shadows. Ballet dancers and girls. Can we get any more cliched with gender roles?
Also, while I didn’t know Thea, I am sort of familiar with her brother, Geronimo. My nine year old has one of his books on her shelf. Why put his name at the top of Thea’s book? If you think that is an irrelevant detail, just conisder how actors fight for top billing and the kind of status, power, and salary that placement conveys.
The good news is that Thea Stilton totally rocks. My daughter and I have not been able to put the book down. This morning, she was still reading it on the way to school to the point of car sickness, finally, letting me tear it away from her so that I could come home and blog about it.
The first page of the book is a letter from Thea:
Hello, I’m Thea!
I’m Geronimo Stilton’s sister. As I’m sure you know from my brother’s best-selling novels, I’m a special correspondent for The Rodent’s Gazette…Unlike my ‘fraidy mouse brother, I absolutely adore traveling, having adventures, and meeting rodents from around the world.
Thea is way cooler than Geronimo. She hangs out with an eclectic pack of female mice friends who call themselves the Thea Sisters. The next 5 pages of the book describe each character. They come from different countries: China, Peru, Tanzania, Australia, and France. They have different passions, aspiring to be an ecologist, scientist, sports journalist, car mechanic, or fashion writer. As far as the fashion writer, whose favorite color is pink, Colette is one out of 6 female characters, and I have no issue with her look or career choice. The problem with pink, princesses, or for that matter, anorexic fashion models, is not they exist at all, but their dominance over representations of females in the media. One out of six into fashion is okay with me.
In this particular adventure, the Thea Sisters are off to Milan, Italy for a ballet competition where they investigate corruption; the judges have been bribed. The story is filled with interesting facts coupled with illustrations about Italy, ballet, and the history of dance. In this way, the book reminds me a little of the Magic Tree House series. Characters have funny names like Madame Rattlova and Professor Ratshnikov. There is a lot of word play and puns about mice and cheese. Two characters are described as different as “provolone and parmesan.” All of this makes the book really fun to read with daughter. There is a lot of opportunity to explain new words and jokes in a context that she was curious about and really wanted to understand. Reading this book with her, I felt like I was watching her brain grow.
While Geronimo has 53 books of his own, Thea has just 14, but we are excited to read them all, especially, for me, the ones that have nothing to do with ballet. Thea Stilton and the Dragon’s Code and Thea Stilton and the Blue Scarab Hunt look great.
Reel Girl rates Thea Stilton and The Dancing the Shadows ***HHH***