Friday, November 23, 2012

Children's 7-12 Review: The Mona Mousa Code

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The Mona Mousa Code

Stilton, G. (2005). The Mona Mousa Code (M.Wolf, Illus., Edizioni Piemme S.p.A, Trans.). New York, NY: Scholastic¹

[Genre: Series Fiction, Anthropomorphic, Adventure]

The Mona Mousa Code is the 15th book of the Geronimo Stilton series. In The Mona Mousa Code Geronimo and his companions track down clues to discover a secret hidden in the ‘Mona Mousa’ painting.

The Mona Mousa Code has many elements that appeal to a developing reader. Although at 113 pages it is definitely a chapter book, it has periodic illustrations which a transitioning reader would enjoy. It also uses a descriptive textual style, coupling phrases with word imagery. For example, the words ‘boiling hot’ are in a shaky, red font. With over 50 titles, it falls firmly into the formulaic series category. The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand (2011, p.42) writes that ‘many children want and need security and continuity in their reading,’ which a prolific series provides.

However, I found the writing style and plot of The Mona Mousa Code fell somewhat flat. The conflict was simplistic and repetitive. The characters seemed unchangeable and somewhat contradictory; Geronimo is afraid to travel in a fast car, but goes out at night to solve a potentially dangerous mystery. These are characteristics Van Order & Strong (2007) see as less effective writing, one of the pitfalls of quantity-driven formulaic fiction. It is primarily for this reason that The Mona Mousa Code would likely appeal to the lower end of the 7-12 age group, as older readers grow past its picture book qualities for more exciting reading.



  • The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand. (2011). Module 1: Children and young people – developmental stages, literacy and literature. In 72276: Literature and Information Resources for Children and Young People. Lower Hutt, New Zealand: Author.

  • Van Orden, P.J, & Strong, S. (2007). Fiction. In Children's books: a practical guide to selection (pp.91-104). New York: Neal Schuman.

¹ Please note, although The Mona Mousa Code and other books in this series are published under the author name Geronimo Stilton, character concept credit belongs to Elisabetta Dami

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