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Book Review: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

The title character, in the overalls of the proletariat.

HarperCollins Publisher promises readers a tale of an “energetic host run ragged by his guest” as they tumble through the pages of this “delightful book.” Delightful, it appears, is a subjective term. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie offers a thinly masked political agenda in support of bourgeoisie. Indeed from the very first page, it establishes the parasitic relationship between the host and unexpected guest.

The mouse, in the role of the needy, approaches the large home of a young boy in search of a cookie. Far from rewarding the generosity of the young boy, the mouse continues to demand more and more of his host. The boy is eventually forced to feed, clothe, sooth, provide hygienic care, and clean up for the mouse “guest.” The book uses repetition as a form of establishing these patterns of abuse. The story provides a didactic scenario that shows how no good deed goes unpunished.

However, instead of noticing the metaphor for wealth redistribution, the audience is lured into the book’s colorful images and the many interesting tasks forced upon the boy. When at last the boy has spent the last reserves of his energy, nearly asleep from his efforts, the mouse has the audacity to ask for milk again. Using the pattern so artfully established earlier, the audience is made aware that, like most abusive relationships, the process is cyclical.

Politically charged, this book provides controversy page after page. From pseudo-homoerotic undertones in a scene where the boy help puts the mouse to “bed,” to a social commentary on societal pressures of self-image, in a scene in which the self-conscious mouse cuts his hair, this book forces the reader to reflect on how we live our lives. The book manages to read simply, using fewer words than are in this review, despite its heavy content. Though transparent, the book is at times too blatant in its metaphors, lacking the finesse of more cultured authors. The first in a series of similar If You Give a… books this promises to be a pot stirrer.

© 2012