Geronimo Stilton is a mouse. From there, it gets a bit complicated.

Geronimo Stilton has written over fifty novels for children, along with more than a dozen graphic novels and a good-sized handful of odds and ends. He is the Enid Blyton of rodents. (His sister, Thea Stilton, isn't doing too bad herself, with over 20 books to her name). In addition to this, he is the editor and publisher of The Rodent's Gazette, the most widely-read of New Mouse City's newspapers. And also, he is a roving reporter who finds himself, usually unwillingly, on a number of adventures. Which he then writes about.

The Geronimo Stilton books tend to be fairly lightweight, intended for the non-discriminating reader of 8 to 12 years old. If one did not know better, one might suspect that they were churned out by a stable of ghostwriters, probably those ghostwriters who weren't quite good enough to write 'autobiographies' for sports stars. The plots are generally quite straightforward and predictable, and often somewhat unsatisfactory even at the basic level expected in a series of 50 books written by a mouse. Despite this, they are often somewhat educational, and are written at a fairly high vocabulary level, considering their content, and use a fair amount of wordplay (mostly cheese and rodent puns). Because of this they are good books for exercising young readers who are fairly fluent readers and are ready for a light workout.

The most prominent feature of these novels is the text. While the body of the text is written in a pleasingly large and clear font, many words are Flamboyantly variegated. Geronimo's name, when given in full, is usually written in flowery script, exclamations are colored and writ large, and anything that can be made visually onomatopoetic, is. Arrows direct you from specific words to related illustrations, punctuation escapes into the margins, and pictures sneak behind the text... It's fun to read.

I have not been particularly taken by the characters, who are are fairly stagnant caricatures (Stilton is always a scaredy rat, Thea is brave and brash, etc.). The setting is the entire globe, as populated by mice: Geronimo travels to Japan, Egypt, America... Oh, yes, I suppose that it is worth mentioning that Geronimo was originally an Italian series, started by the publishing house of Edizioni Piemme. While I don't believe that it is ever stated exactly where Mouse Island is, it was surely originally in the Mediterranean sea. (The American books record it as being between the Mousific Ocean and the Ratlantic Ocean. Did I mention that the puns are really, really bad?)

I never recommend a Geronimo Stilton book to a child that I think would enjoy... well, quite frankly, anything good. However, they are fairly easy to read, usually pretty motivating, and do give the ego boost of having made it through a chapter book. Because the plot is simple and the characters very predictable, children can focus on the text, which does require sustained attention to decode. It gives a good bit of context for new vocabulary words, frequently uses idioms and puns, and is silly enough that kids are usually willing to put up with this kind of literacy exercise. They are very good, in their place.

I will not attempt to list all 114 Geronimo Stilton and company books (there are probably a dozen more by the time you read this, anyway), but the first Geronimo Stilton book is Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye. In addition to the Thea Stilton books (starting with Thea Stilton and the Dragon's Code), there are also series written by Creepella von Cacklefur (The Thirteen Ghosts) and Geronimo Stiltonoot, a cavemouse (The Stone of Fire). Oh, and a spin-off series called Kingdom of Fantasy, where Geronimo has adventures in fairy tale settings. And a new spin-off, The SpaceMice, due to start in 2014. And the graphic novels, published by PapercutZ (for both Stilton and Thea).


'Stilton' is the name of a famous English cheese. It is a registered trademark of the Stilton Cheese Makers' Association. For more information, go to www.stiltoncheese.com.
-- from the copyright page of every Geronimo Stilton book.



Scholastic: Geronimo Stilton
Edizioni Piemme: Geronimo Stilton

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