This is a bit weird, but stay with me. It will make sense in a minute.
So, I spend a lot of time reading books with my three-year-old daughter. She does not seem to share my intense bookworm qualities just yet, but this is probably a good thing as maybe it means she will develop social skills and things. Anyway, I have come to a groundbreaking and possibly world-changing realisation: mice are the rulers of the world.
See, I told you that you’d think it was weird. I’m right though.
Let’s begin with Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s ultimate money-maker, The Gruffalo. The mouse manages to trick three significant predators, all of whom are bigger than him and really hungry. He then appears to conjure up an actual monster, merely through THE POWER OF HIS IMAGINATION, and manages to hoodwink him too. Then he does all this again in the sequel. The mouse is an evil genius.
My small human is also very fond of a particular cute book called Just Like You (by Jan Fearnley), which features a little mouse and his mum walking home, witnessing all the other animal parents telling their babies how much they do for them. It’s a level of competitive parenting which you generally have to go on Facebook to witness. So little mouse gets home and basically says, “mum, you suck. You can’t fly and you aren’t a fox. What is the point of you?” And then she owns him. The moral of the story: don’t question the mothering skills of a mouse.
Representing the ladies in the category of mouse fiction is Posy, the eponymous heroine of the Pip and Posy books by Axel Scheffler. These are probably the simplest stories imaginable, with Pip and Posy enduring many life-changing experiences like falling out with each other over a snowman, and that time Pip did a wee on the floor and Posy gave him a dress to wear (these are very diverse stories, you know). Posy has a can-do attitude which I like, although her inability to sleep without a cuddly frog does suggest some attachment issues which I hope Scheffler will address in a future story.
You know how you suddenly find a book in your house and look at it suspiciously, thinking, “where did you come from?” Marcello Mouse and the Masked Ball (by Julie Monks) is an example of this. I cannot remember how this book found its way into my house, but I do know that my daughter, who cannot even read, knows the whole thing by heart, including voices and varying levels of volume to express the deep levels of emotion conveyed in the story of brave Marcello, desperate to attend a ball full of cats just so he can show off his slick moves.
What is it with mice? Why are they so beloved of children’s authors when, if you found one in your house unexpectedly, you probably wouldn’t invite it for dinner? Is it because they are smaller than children and, consequently, non-threatening? Maybe the stereotypical view that they all squeak endearingly is the reason for their ubiquity in children’s fiction. The only other species to be so widely represented and largely loved are, I think penguins and rabbits. I hereby announce my intention to write a bestselling series of kids’ books about a mouse, a penguin and a bunny, probably all living in a wood and having innocuous adventures. Nobody steal my idea.
Here’s the irony; having written this lengthy post about how all children’s books are about mice, my daughter asked for a book about cows tonight. Ah, the fleeting passions of childhood.