In our Lower Intermediate I classes, we’ve been reading Geronimo Stilton: The Enormouse Pearl Heist, an installment of the phenomenally popular series of books featuring anthropomorphized rodents and starring a mouse named Geronimo Stilton, whose status as a best-selling author and career in journalism afford him endless opportunities for adventure.
Though made available in English translation by major English-language children’s book publisher Scholastic, the characters and situations are the creation of Italian children’s book author Elisabetta Dami and the books are all first written and published in Italian. Above, you can see the original Italian edition on the left and, to the right, the English translation that we’re tackling with our young learners.
One of the triumphs of the Geronimo Stilton books is the knack that they have for transcending cultural boundaries. They’re tremendously popular, even with readers born and reared in environments that offer few points of contact with the eponymouse hero’s home, New Mouse City. In fact, many of our students come to us having read a number of Geronimo Stilton books, though the degree to which they’ve comprehended those stories varies and few have the faintest clue as to the derivation of the famouse mouse journo’s name. Hints: Geronimo is the name of a famous Native American leader and, if you haven’t already figured out where he got his surname, have a second gander at the photo preceding this paragraph! What’s more, many of the cheese references (even to humble, workaday varieties like mozzarella and cheddar) fly right over our students’ heads.
To raise our young learners’ collective cheese consciousness, we combed through The Enormouse Pearl Heist and arranged for some of our young ladies and gentlemen to taste salami (used in a simile, “tied up like a salami”, on page 96) and each of the types of cheese referenced in the book: Blue Stilton (from which Geronimo draws his last name), mozzarella (page 10), Swiss cheese (page 16), provolone (page 23), and cheddar (page 79).
As you can see from the photomontage above, much fun was had by all present and the salami and cheese samples, including the cubes of mold-veined Blue Stilton, were rapidly consumed.