Thrice Told Tales: Three Mice Full of Writing Advice

Overview

Three Blind Mice. Three Blind Mice. See how they run? No. See how they can make all sorts of useful literary elements colorful and easy to understand!

Can one nursery rhyme explain the secrets of the universe? Well, not exactly—but it can help you understand the difference between bildungsroman, epigram, and epistolary.

From the absurd to the wish-I’d-thought-of-that clever, writing professor Catherine Lewis blends Mother Goose with Edward ...

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Overview

Three Blind Mice. Three Blind Mice. See how they run? No. See how they can make all sorts of useful literary elements colorful and easy to understand!

Can one nursery rhyme explain the secrets of the universe? Well, not exactly—but it can help you understand the difference between bildungsroman, epigram, and epistolary.

From the absurd to the wish-I’d-thought-of-that clever, writing professor Catherine Lewis blends Mother Goose with Edward Gorey and Queneau, and the result is learning a whole lot more about three not so helpless mice, and how to fine tune your own writing, bildungsroman and all.

If your writing is your air, this is your laughing gas.*

*That’s a metaphor, friends.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lewis makes wonderfully clever use of the “Three Blind Mice” nursery rhyme to illustrate nearly 100 elements of writing and literature—plot, dialogue, flashbacks, coincidence, and more. The concept of sentimentality is framed as a publisher’s rejection letter, picking apart a mouse’s mawkish manuscript; “Wow, that’s sharp!” remarks another mouse, gingerly touching a kitchen knife on a page about foreshadowing. Lewis expands on each term in brief “Snip of the Tale” summaries and an extensive appendix. “It’s not just the idea, but the author’s way of putting it,” she writes of style, following samples from the likes of Dickens Mouse and Hemingway Mouse (“Three mice. Woman with knife. No tails”). Swarte’s clean-line b&w cartoons ramp up the energy and comedy. For writers of any age, it’s a very funny and useful resource. Ages 12–up. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Janice DeLong
Without question, Lewis has chosen a unique path to the interpretation of literary elements for students of literature and creative writing. From allegory to vocabulary, from preface to epilogue she explains more than ninety terms that may have baffled writers from high school through college and beyond. Using the Mother Goose rhyme of "The Three Blind Mice" as a point of reference, Lewis demonstrates the facts of her text with humor and aplomb. The mice practically spring off the page in their tailless adventures, and dialogue is sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant—considering their condition. The intended audience is a bit puzzling, however. Writing teachers will find individual examples used by Lewis easily extrapolated into classroom instruction. Even so, some of the narrative and some of the examples are a bit crass and more likely to find noncontroversial homes with adults than with teens under the age of seventeen. The appendix is a veritable treasure trove of concise definitions for each of the terms used in the narrative. Swarte's illustrations, with their spare lines and amusing expressions are a perfect companion to the narrative. Reviewer: Janice DeLong
School Library Journal
★ 09/01/2013
Gr 8 Up—Lewis offers a witty and whimsical guide for burgeoning scribes that includes definitions of common literary terms as well as writing advice. With a page or two devoted to each, elements such as intertextuality, farce, foreshadowing, and leitmotif are explained using the nursery rhyme about three blind mice. The author has created a background story for the mice and developed distinct personalities for each one as she uses their tale to define the selected literary elements. Concepts are succinctly summarized at the end of each page. Playful black-and-white illustrations of the mice in action add visual interest. Other writing advice includes topics such as how to build suspense, how and when to incorporate sentimentality, and how to effectively include potentially distracting content such as sex or expletives. Explanations are interesting and clever, turning formerly lackluster definitions of literary terms into entertainment. Useful for readers who want to hone their writing skills as well as creative-writing classes.—Ragan O'Malley, Saint Ann's School, Brooklyn, NY
Kirkus Reviews
From allegory to verisimilitude, the three blind mice demonstrate a wealth of literary terms. Named Pee Wee, Oscar and Mary, the famous mice start with their basic "Story" and ring the changes on it using a variety of literary tools. "Vocabulary and Syntax" renders the first line of the familiar nursery rhyme four different ways: "Trinity of myopic vermin / Eyeless murine trio / Triumvirate of sightless rodents / Three blind mice." Under "Style," readers encounter "Hemingway Mouse": "Three mice. Woman with knife. No tails." "Oxymoron" is exemplified by "It was a dull knife that caused their soundless wails." Lewis covers every imaginable possibility, including "F--k," a section on the use of expletives, and "Sex in the Story." Clever line drawings by Swarte enliven every page, and Lewis' own comments add graceful explanation. Under "Repetition," for example, she writes, "The pleasure of repetition from the acoustic to the unconscious is ubiquitous." Treatment of each topic is brief, though artful, but an exhaustive glossary--intelligent, witty, thoughtfully referential and written in a voice as distinctive as William Strunk's--provides further elucidation and heft (it also doubles as an index). A sparkling celebration of the craft of writing that easily rises to the level of belles lettres itself. (Nonfiction. 12 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416957843
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 8/27/2013
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 635,339
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 850L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Catherine Lewis worked as a emergency medical technician and police officer while honing her writing skills. Now she is a professor of creative writing at Purchase College and lives in New York City. Her first novel, Dry Fire, was for adults; Postcards to Father Abraham was her critically acclaimed debut young adult novel.
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