symbolism overview

Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken • Symbolism Overview by Scott Heydt

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Chapter 2: Pinkies, Fuzzies, and Hoppers

What goes around comes around for Jackson. After teasing (and almost swallowing) a hopper while cleaning its cage, Jackson partners with Clint, the freckled hopper from Mrs. Daley’s kindergarten classroom. Meanwhile Drew pairs with Ben, a meek pinky. Drew realizes Mr. Cross will not intervene to save Jackson from Clint’s antics, setting the tone for independence and responsibility in the classroom.


Chapter 3: Ozzie


Drew exposes his anger issues by exploding a chocolate milk carton in his fist at lunch. His actions create an immediate connection with Ozzie, the tenacious Nile monitor. After an altercation with Joe Riaz, and a conversation with Mr. Cross in the hall, Drew learns that anger is natural but controlling it with the help of others is essential.


Chapter 4: Prometheus


Drew is a frightened rat, pursued and taunted by Joe—a menacing snake of a boy. Jackson protects his best friend and breaks Joe’s arm in the process. But does that make Jackson any different from Joe? After an unforgettable nightmare, Drew empathizes with the rat in Prometheus’ cage that has no one to protect it. Mr. Cross catches Drew as he tries to remove the rat from Prometheus’ cage. Drew struggles with his identity and kicks off a transformation throughout the rest of the novel.


Chapter 5: Lactose

The difference between a harmless milk snake and a venomous coral snake is a subtle shift in color patterns. The difference between the departed Joe and the newcomer Ryan is a subtle shift in the target of abuse. Drew confirms his suspicions of Ryan after witnessing a humiliating incident for Troy in the boys’ bathroom. When Principal Major catches the boys, Drew clears his conscience and confesses Troy’s innocence. Jackson exposes his own new stripes as well. Is this the same best friend Drew knows and loves?


Chapter 6: Flash

Mr. Cross urges Drew to emerge from his shell and act upon his convictions rather than sit back and remain an observer. Drew needs time to think and lunches in the sixth‐grade courtyard. Flash, the painted turtle, basks in the sunlight and seems to provide the answers Drew needs. Kim is the ray of sunshine and catalyst Drew needs to follow Mr. Cross’ advice.


Chapter 7: Hugs


Boa constrictors squeeze the life out of their prey. Drew feels suffocated by his first significant fight with Jackson and Kim’s use of the dreaded “B” word—boyfriend. Mr. Cross discloses that Ryan will no longer attend Bridgeton, opening the door for Drew’s attempts to mend his friendship with Jackson.


Chapter 8: Wartz

This chapter parallels the events of the short story “Alone” from Arnold Lobel’s Days with Frog and Toad. Jackson needs time alone to process his mistakes while Drew fails to understand what he has done wrong to keep Jackson away. The two resolve their differences and a new bullfrog, Prince, joins Wartz, symbolizing a friendship renewed.


Chapter 9: Elmer & Super

Geckos are known for their ability to stick to surfaces and objects. Drew learns a valuable lesson from Jackson and Kim about sticking to what is right when the two nominate Troy as winner of the New York trip.


Chapter 10: Flash II

This trip to New York brings Drew from his shell even further—with Kim, with Troy, and even with Gary Paulsen. Like Flash, Drew has spent much of his life looking down, assuming he knew the world around him. Only now is he looking up, and things are certainly looking up for him.


Chapter 11: Crazy

The four enter New York in the car, creatures peering through glass at an unknown world around them. Their experiences in New York bond them together. Drew will rely on his friends to stick by his side when the crazy events of Mr. Cross’ departure take place.


Chapter 12: Fluffy

Prometheus has matured, and his food grows to a white rabbit named Fluffy. The students have matured, and their problem grows to a dark admission—Mr. Cross is leaving. Fluffy seems an innocent pet at first, but the truth of Fluffy’s fate shakes the class. Mr. Cross’ trip to California also seems innocent at first, but the truth of his trip, along with Joe’s surprising return, dismantles Drew’s world.


Chapter 13: Sal

Some believe salamanders are impervious to fire, emerging from the flames unscathed. Drew and Joe join forces to emerge from the literal flames of the classroom fire and the figurative flames of Mr. Cross’ departure unharmed. Salamanders can also regenerate limbs. Joe’s return to Bridgeton came as a result of a devastating fire at his school. Joe regenerated a part of himself that shows compassion and conviction. Drew believes Mr. Cross is an irreplaceable part of
Bridgeton, incapable of growing back.


Chapter 14: Iggy

Iggy’s disappearance is Drew’s mental preparation for Mr. Cross’ departure. Drew commits to finding the elusive iguana. At the conclusion of the novel, Drew “sees” Iggy atop the statue of Bridgeton’s mascot, Billy Bison. This vision symbolizes one icon of Bridgeton forever perched atop another.

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Symbolism Overview