Big Mean Mike

Written By: Michelle Knudsen

Illustrated By: Scott Magoon

Before Reading

Enjoy looking at the cover and illustrations with your child. Take time before reading to ask what s/he thinks will happen in the story by asking:

What do you notice on the cover?

What do you think will happen?

Where do you think this story takes place?

You can also ask your child to list three words that describe Mike before you read about him. You are likely to hear answers like “tough, mean, scary, etc.” As you flip through the illustrations, ask your child if they like the illustrations and what they find interesting about them. Encourage your child to make predictions about what is happening in different pictures throughout the book.

As You Read

Use Fun Voices.

Give the story life by using fun voices and facial expressions to the characters. Have a distinct voice for when you are narrating versus when you are reading Big Mean Mike’s dialogue.

Make Predictions.

As the story progresses, ask your child what s/he thinks will happen as a result of the recent events by asking “What do you think will happen next?” Help your child understand the message of the story by making connections as you read. For example, ask “Why do you think Mike doesn’t want anyone to see little bunnies in his car?” or “Why do you think Big Mean Mike is embarrassed to have bunnies in his car?” Follow the progression of the story and occasionally ask questions about Big Mean Mike’s behavior so that your child can understand the motives behind his actions.

Vocabulary Building:

Encourage your child to stop when s/he gets to a new word. Allow him/her to glean the meaning of the word from the illustrations as well as the words around it. Some good vocabulary words to stop at include:


  2. WIDE


Also, when you come across a word or phrase that is in all caps, ask your child “Why do you think those words are so big?” This will teach your child that an author can express a character’s emotions not only by the words used but also by the size and shape of those words.

After Reading

Ask your child the following questions after finishing to gauge his/her comprehension of the book:

What was your favorite part of the story? Why?

Which picture is your favorite? why?

Can you think of a few times when Big Mean Mike wasn’t so mean?

What was Mike like in the beginning of the story? What about now?

How do you think Mike would have felt if he didn’t stick up for the bunnies?

Why isn’t Mike embarrassed in front of his friends anymore?

These questions will help your child to understand the message of the story by comparing how Mike was at the beginning of the story versus how he is at the end. Make connections to your child’s life by asking “Do you have any friends that are different from you?” or “What would you do if someone made fun of you for being friends with someone else?” Even Big Mean Mike was able to make friends with cute, fluffy bunnies so make clear that we are all unique and that your child should make friends with different kinds of people, and stand up to those who disapprove.

Activity: Mean Mike Alliterations

Reading this book is a great way to make your child aware of phonetic sounds with words that begin with the same sound. 


Ask your child about other words that start with an “M” that might also describe Big Mean Mike like “Muscle Mike” or “Mighty Mike”. Then, ask your child about words that start with the letter at the beginning of their own name by asking “What letter does your name start with? What are some words that start with the same letter that describe you?” 

For young children, construct an ice cream cone with words that start with that letter. Cut a cone out of paper and write that letter on it. (Or, for fall, consider doing a letter tree with the same letter words on apples dangling from them!)  Then, cut out three or four different colored circles and write each word that you came up with. For older children, make it more interesting by asking them to construct a sentence that has several alliterations. For example, Catherine craves cold cucumbers!

Reading Tips

1. Move Your Fingers!

To help your child follow along in a story, move your finger along the pages from word to word of the book as you read. You don’t need to point to every word but by leading with your finger, it indicates to your child that you are reading words from the page and not making the story up as you go. This will also help children recognize sight words that they might already know.

2. Make Connections to Real Life

Making connections between the storyline and past experiences helps your child remember books and understand the underlying messages in books. The lesson to be learned in Big Mean Mike is that being true to yourself and doing what you want to do is important, and you shouldn’t let others dictate your actions so let your child know that this is a good idea for everyone, not just Big Mean Mike.