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Thrice Told Tales: Three Mice Full of Writing Advice

Review

Thrice Told Tales: Three Mice Full of Writing Advice

Meet the mice who met up with the farmer’s wife and her butcher’s knife, resulting in unhappy endings for their posterior appendages. It seems the now-tail-less Pee Wee, Mary and Oscar are siblings who share quite the story, from how they lost their sight to the true story of the encounter
with (boo! Hiss!) Matilda Bethoon, knife-wielder and farmer’s wife. While relating their account, they manage to clue us in to the many elements writers use.

"Readers are sure to take pleasure in THRICE TOLD TALES whether they use it as a reference work to understand the concepts of writing and literature tools (or to wow others with their knowledge of these things) or purely for the enjoyment in these pages (and there’s nothing wrong with that!)."

In brief lively one- or two-page reviews, illustrated with hilarious line drawings, the rodents explain each literary concept, which is then summed up in an even-briefer “Snip of the Tale.” For example, a cat plays an important part as a “Red Herring” in a scene in which Mary, Oscar and Pee
Wee find an enormous feline in their path in the farmhouse kitchen. The cat ominously licks his fur, his tongue rasping loudly, as he displays his sharp, hooked claws. The mice tremble in fear, and readers are convinced that this creature endangers our heroes . . .until the farmer’s wife
springs into action, charging with her knife. Aha! The cat looked dangerous, but it was not the real villain in this scene. As the “Snip of the Tale” tells us, the menace of the cat had nothing to do with the story . . .and so qualifies for “red herring” status. It goes on to inform us that "Red herrings can be related to characters, plots, and cheap tricks that mislead.”

Some of the literary tools described in THRICE TOLD TALES are likely to be familiar to readers: character, plot, hero, description and so on. Others, however, may well be terms they don’t recognize. They might experience several “Aha! So that’s what that is called” moments when the mice illustrate concepts such as avant-garde (which counters traditional literary forms), leitmotif (something that repeats to unite parts of a work and sets up a theme), interior monologue (allows readers to know that a character thinks) and intertextuality (referring to another work).

Along the way, author Catherine Lewis interjects many humorous bits, such as a page called “Keyboard Digression,” which combines keyboard doodling strokes into cartoon characters that enact the story of the encounter between the three blind mice and the farmer’s wife. In the “Snip of the Tale” she tells us that even when a writer is not actually writing, she is still pondering her work.

How many times in life are we offered the chance to pick up valuable facts and skills and have an absolute blast doing it? Well, this is definitely one of those rare and wonderful times. Readers are sure to take pleasure in THRICE TOLD TALES whether they use it as a reference work to understand the concepts of writing and literature tools (or to wow others with their knowledge of these things) or purely for the enjoyment in these pages (and there’s nothing wrong with that!).

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on July 22, 2013

Thrice Told Tales: Three Mice Full of Writing Advice
by Catherine Lewis

  • Publication Date: August 27, 2013
  • Genres: Writing
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 1416957847
  • ISBN-13: 9781416957843