Book Series Gives Great Civics Lessons to Little Learners
Cheryl and Peter Barnes chose a most ambitious task: create a set of children’s books about parts of the American government that most adults find confusing and, let’s be honest, boring. Additionally, they wanted to make the books interesting and educational, the explanations understandable and the illustrations cute and attention-holding.
Amazingly, they do a great job at this tough task. It helps that they expect kids to be interested enough to learn and bright enough to understand adult concepts.
When I first got ahold of these books, I assumed that I would read them with my daughter, a kindergartener and advanced reader. But it was while she was at school that my four year old son grabbed these three books—Marshall the Courthouse Mouse, Woodrow the White House Mouse, and House Mouse Senate Mouse—and asked me to read them to him. And we did—all three, in one sitting!
He listened to the rhyming text as he hunted for the hidden item on each page that the authors had (so wisely!) included in each picture. The book about the Supreme Court was our favorite. He loved the example of how the mice came up with a law: certain cheeses could only be eaten on certain days of the week. Some mice were in favor, others were not.
My son understood this—how would he feel if his food had to be dictated to him? When the dispute grew from a squeak to a raucous, the argument was brought before the Supreme Court. He listened intently as the Chief Justice helped guide his fellow mice justices in coming to a decision to make most mice happy.
While reading House Mouse Senate Mouse, we looked at a picture of the Senate Chamber, where mice were debating a bill. “Are there any kids?” he asked. “What a great question!” I exclaimed, thankful in a nerdy way for the teachable moment.
I explained to him that in real-life, congressmen and congresswomen were grown-ups. They had to be—that was the law. But that sometimes kids testify, or bring forward their own opinion or story that is being discussed in Congress, down on the floor, where the grown-ups are. That’s how our country is.” And kids could also go and listen to what was discussed—I pointed to the rafters, where there were mice-kids. “We could go down to Washington, DC, and listen to them sometime.”
I am confident that there are facts and nuances in all these books that my kids have yet to learn and grasp. But that’s the reason why books such as these are so important to keep on our children’s shelves.
Every time I read these books to them in the months and years ahead, they will gain a little more understanding about our government. When their future teachers talk about the role of our president, they will have gained familiarity with the subject. One thing is already certain: they will know more than the White House is a good place for an Easter egg hunt.
The Barnes do us parents (and teachers, too!) an additional service at the end of each book. They provide information for those of us who thrive on little factoids to throw in while we teach, either at home or in a classroom.
For those of us lucky enough to live within a short drive of Washington, DC, these books are even more exceptional teaching tools—books to read, topics to discuss, pictures to examine—before, during and after family field trips to the places in the books. Your kids will be able to digest facts and concepts before actually having their own mental image of the White House, Supreme Court, and Capitol building.
I am so glad that these books are on our family’s shelf. They might not be requested every night at bedtime, but they are cute and apt introductions to important lessons. Together they are a fantastic little collection for any pint-sized American; I recommend them to your family and those around you!
Marshall the Courthouse Mouse, Woodrow the White House Mouse, House Mouse Senate Mouse
By Cheryl and Peter Barnes
Little Patriot Press
Available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books a Million! for approximately $12.40 each
|Easy to Read||5|
|Quality of Illustrations
|Appealed to Both Boys and Girls||5|
| I Would Purchase This For My Family
| I would Purchase This As A Gift
|I Found Information in The Book Helpful||5|
| Overall Rating
All ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being highest.
Meet the Reviewer!
Kate Schwarz is a full-time mom
and wife living in Great Falls, VA.
In addition to reading to her three
small hildren, Kate runs marathons,
Crossfits, and blogs about raising
kids with books at