“The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse” is one of Aesop’s fables. It is also found in the fables of La Fontaine.
The basic story is this: a town mouse visits a country mouse and is scornful of the country mouse’s simple life. The country mouse goes to town to see all the lavish things the town mouse has described, but finds that it is a dangerous place, and goes home content.
Better a simple meal in safety than a lavish meal in fear, goes the moral.
Within this simple framework, many writers have added details. The mice creeping onto the gorgeously set table, then escaping from the cat or dog or vacuum cleaner provide plenty of suspense for young listeners.
We like both Jan Brett’s and Richard Scarry’s highly detailed picture book versions. Kate Summers has illustrated a version with charming illustrations.
Mary Engelbreit included this story in her Nursery and Fairy Tales Collection.
There are also plenty of online retellings:
- multicultural versions
- a cartoon version
- Beatrix Potters’ Johnny the Town-Mouse is similar to “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse,” but has a different moral. Bring out the Venn diagrams to compare the two stories.
Once you’ve read some of the stories, give students the chance to retell the story. This story is well-suited to dramatization. Here are some helps:
- CTP’s Reader’s Theater: Fairy Tales, Gr. 1-2 includes a script for this story (among others, including “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” ‘The Frog Prince,” and half a dozen more.) The focus is on compare and contrast practice, including Venn diagram use, comparatives and superlatives, and urban vs. rural life.
- Jan Brett’s masks and finger puppets for this story are great for retelling, or for use with story maps. Check out the web activities for her version of the story, too.
A few good links for following up on the story:
- an online quiz checks basic comprehension, using Jan Brett’s version
- a Learning to Give lesson plan with pen pals
- a classroom lesson plan focusing on letter writing
- This is the perfect story for distinguishing urban from rural life, a task which turns up in our state frameworks several times. Use graphic organizers to list the differences between city and country as portrayed in the story. Then consider whether the portrayal is accurate in modern times, or in the place where you live.
- Much of the story in picture books of “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse” is about the details of the mice’s lives. Change the details to reflect the geography of particular places. What foods, pets, and other details would give a sense of place? Have students rewrite the story setting it in different countries or states, and read the results aloud, giving other students opportunities to guess the locations.
- Aesop’s moral specifically contrasts safety and luxury. Leaving aside the question of town vs. country, challenge students to consider whether a simple life is necessarily safer. Find applications and examples in daily life, or in newspapers.
- The country mouse and the city mouse both have the same basic needs. How do they meet them? Make charts.
- EdCon has a lesson using the story for cost-benefit analysis.
- This is a handy opportunity for practicing comparison. Put sentence examples like these in your pocket chart, and practice the various ways of expressing comparisons:
- While the country mouse ate simple foods, the town mouse ate fancy foods.
- The town mouse had an exciting life, but the country mouse had a quiet life.
- The town mouse had a noisier life than the country mouse.
- The country mouse liked country life better than city life.
- This is also the perfect example for teaching elaboration in writing. Read the single paragraph of Aesop’s fable, and then one of the picture books. Go right on to discuss how that simple topic sentence can be fleshed out to make a persuasive paragraph.
- This is a fable, a story — generally using animals — intended to teach a lesson. Rewrite the story using other animals. How would the details of the story have to change? Or keep the mice but change the lesson. Do you feel a genre lesson coming on?