Fergus and Zeke at the Science Fair by Kate Messner and illustrated by Heather Ross

Publisher’s Synopsis: "Fergus and Zeke love being the class pets in Miss Maxwell’s classroom, and they do everything the students do — listening at storytime, painting masterpieces during art class, and keeping their own special journals. But when it’s time for the school science fair, the mice aren’t sure just how to get involved. Lucy wants to time them as they run through a maze, but they want to do an experiment, not be an experiment. Then Zeke comes up with a great idea: since Lucy is training animals for her experiment, maybe he and Fergus can do the same thing! Unfortunately, the only animals available are the students themselves. Can Fergus and Zeke turn the tables and train Lucy in time for the science fair?"

My Two Cents: Fergus and Zeke at the Science Fair is a cute second in series book about two anthropomorphized classroom mice with lots of personality. I did not read the first in the series, Fergus and Zeke, but Kate Messner books are always a treat so I can imagine why there is sequel.

Fergus and Zeke at the Science Fair has many opportunities for interdisciplinary literacy for beginning chapter book readers, some solid vocabulary words related to science and the scientific method, as well as a cute story about classroom mice wanting to DO an experiment rather than BE an experiment.

With no ‘big’ themes to struggle over requiring teacher guidance, Fergus and Zeke at the Science Fair is a solid literary circles selection for grades 1 or 2 and/or a striving 3rd grade group - probably more of an individual selection rather than a whole class read. See teaching ideas below...

Genre: Animal Tales, Beginning Chapter Books
Age: Transitional Readers, ages 5-9
Pages: 48
Date: September, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-7636-7847-0
Thank You to Library Thing and Candlewick Press for my review copy!
Themes: Training animals, Science Fair, Working hard in school
Character Development: Zeke is the standout mouse, with Fergus being the more reasonable, rule following one. Students and teacher are pretty generic as Fergus & Zeke are the show.
Plot: Will Fergus & Zeke get to do a science fair experiment?
Originality: Classroom. Students. Teacher. Pets. Pretty typical kid lit stuff.
Believability: I’m not the best animal tales reader, but allow that many kids love them. This one seems quite plausible and plays on the mice as experiment subjects idea.
Diversity: Tale is centered in typically represented American classroom. Kid’s skin tones are somewhat diverse. Teacher is white/blonde.

Teaching Ideas:

First.... a teaching guide from Candlewick Press can be found : HERE

Vocabulary: masterpieces, journal, announcement, science fair, experiment, solar system, scientists, erosion, observe, soggy, maze, skittered, grumped, demonstration, squealed, chemistry, marveled, clipboards

Interdisciplinary Opportunities: Solar System, Sunlight/Plant Growth, Erosion, Scientific Method 

Anticipatory/Engagement Questions: What is a science fair? Have you ever trained something? Why do we train animals?

Comprehension Questions:

At first, Fergus & Zeke plant sunflower seeds and watch them, but that doesn’t work. Why not? (they eat the seeds) p. 5

Why do Fergus & Zeke have trouble completing the erosion experiment? (they can’t aim well to get the water to erode the wood chips) p. 9

Why does Zeke hide in his mad spot? (he wants to DO and experiment himself, not be part of one) p. 12

Why doesn’t Lucy give Zeke a treat? (he cheated) p. 16

Why does it matter that he cheated? (she is trying to train him to run the maze and he went over the top of the maze wall) - inference standard

Which animals are Fergus and Zeke going to try to train in their experiment (children/Lucy) p. 19 

What do Fegus & Zeke train Lucy to do? (do the bouncy cheer) p. 22

What do Fergus & Zeke win? (first place ribbon) last page - inference visual

Post Question: Does a teacher “train” children? Elaborate

You can read more about Kate Messner's many fabulous books (and her too) on her website.

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 © 2007-2019 Dr. Cheryl Vanatti, education & reading specialist writing at www.ReadingRumpus.com