We all have books we’d like to secretly remove from our kids’ shelves. In the middle of the night. And go all Office Space on them. Nicole over at Ninja Mom Blog started a delightful tradition of giving bloggers the weapon of their choice with which to decimate the creepy, annoying, and ungrateful children…er…children’s literature characters that stick in their craw during bedtime reading. Thus was born Character Assassination Carousel, a whirling extravaganza of literary bloodshed and wicked laughter.
The last assassins, Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms, showed us how to read the truly freaky Fox and Hen Together as the hillbilly dysfunctional fustercluck Fried Kentucky Shore. Go read along with their firing squad approach to that dreadful tale.
And when we’re done here, hover around the Character Assassination Carousel to see what children’s classic Farrah at The Three Under will revile next.
Today it’s my turn. I am honored and grateful to be able to warn you the hell away from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie written by Laura Joffe Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond.
Every time the conversation turns to If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, parents spring to their Ultimate Fighting corners. “It’s sooooo precious,” some coo, “I just love how tired the poor boy gets allowing the mouse to explore.” Others open their eyes wide with horror. “But it sets a bad example, don’t you think, of kids getting everything they want and demanding more,” they shudder, stutter, and reach for their high-fiber, food-like bar.
I’m here, ladies and gentlemen, as a public servant on the Character Assassination Carousel, to show you the darker side of the mouse. And the cookie.
We all need to understand the murderous dangers of letting your child see anyone giving a mouse a cookie. (Aside from the perils inherent in eating a calorie source larger than one’s torso, of course. But that goes without saying for parents who would *never* compulsively eat cookies the minute their children’s backs are turned. Right? Ahem…right? Yeah, me, too.)
I’m talking about the very tangible danger that your child, after enough mouse-and-cookie indoctrination, will become a serial killer.
“Oh, please,” you might laugh. “Stop the cable-news teasers. I happen to know that my child will only become a serial killer if I go back to work or don’t, sleep train or don’t, use sunscreen or don’t, and allow fast food or not. The stakes aren’t so high with this. This is just a book. About a mouse.”
WRONG. It’s a book about a nefarious leader who rewires a cult member’s moral compass and points him toward murderous deeds. It’s about mind-control drugs and hit lists and diabolical rages. And it’s a reminder to never, never trust children or mice.
Don’t believe me? Of course not. Some of you know about my precarious grasp on reality. And my distant memory of sanity. But that’s immaterial here. I am finally coming out of my fog, the one in which I was lulled into a false sense of security by my willingness to read this terrible text at the end of the day when I generally think it reasonable to do anything my children ask as long as they Just. Go. To. Sleep.
Looks innocuous enough, right? Wearing his unassumingly rolled-up overalls and clasping his big-as-a-sibling cookie, he’s cheering for his early-reader success of writing the title and drawing realistic cookies with crayon. Yay for mice who can read and write! (I guess. Except how creepy. What if they can read and write and have a wicked sense of humor and switch your candy for vitamins and vitamins for antidepressants? Then where will we be?)
That cover illustration’s smile is a ruse, dear readers. For on the very first page of the story, you see the scenario we all fear from 1970s propaganda films…Stranger Danger!
Now, I’m willing to admit that we’ve failed our rodent population. Due in part to budget constraints and fiscal politics, mice these days don’t have judgmental police officers like those in the Stranger Danger video to tell them to avoid creepy guys handing out cookies. As a result, our intrepid hero falls for the oldest trick in the book: “Come inside and I’ll give you some more cookies.”
Once locked away from prying eyes and moralistic neighbors, the boy drugs the mouse with a glass of milk laced with mind-control chemicals.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” you interrupt. “That’s ludicrous. It’s a snack! Cookies and milk after school is a time-honored tradition. Maybe they’re friends. Maybe the mouse lives there.”
Um, first of all, do you give your kids cookies and milk after school? No. You try to cram them full of protein and fruit so they have enough energy to leave you the hell alone while you make dinner. And if you did give them cookies and milk? There’s a good chance they’re actually your children. Or the children of parents whose insistence on gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free snacks has driven you to revenge. But we know the mouse is a stranger to this boy.
The plotting boy has captured the eldest son of a delightfully happy mouse family, the lot of whom will be devastated by the loss of their sweet son. They’ll probably be heartbroken, as well, by his subsequent life of crime. Maybe. I don’t know them and can’t judge their lives, especially since all their children refuse to wear shirts. If that’s been going for more than a few years with three kids, I couldn’t blame them for being fed up enough to not file the Missing Persons report right away.
So how does the young mouse go from kidnap victim to life of crime, you ask? Don’t forget for a moment the results of that cocktail of brain-altering chemicals the boy pretended was milk.
What follows is not what we’d predict from a contentedly full and sleepy mouse.
We know this was not just milk because moments after eating twice his body weight in cookie and drinking three times his volume in some sort of odorless, tasteless stimulant, the drug takes effect.
He’s wired and falling apart. I’m not an expert, but it seems like a hefty dose of meth would get a mouse to do this
[Can we talk for a moment about living in squalor? My dear, predator child, serial killer or no, you have to sweep a bit more regularly. You clearly keep the ashes of your victims strewn about on the floor of an otherwise tidy house. That’s just weird. If you’re compelled to tidiness and intricate body disposal schemes, you can find a way to care about the human-ash dust-blanket that fills your house. Evil is no excuse for being gross.]
Now that the mouse is in the grip of the sense-dulling drugs, the true cost of accepting that stranger’s cookie is revealed.
That mouse is totally coming to get you; and if he doesn’t, your child will!
Once the poor captive mouse is transformed into a bloodthirsty maniac, he takes a moment to gloss the boy’s killing manual.
Then takes off to make his own hit list. Does he choose an abrasive celebrity? A rotten politician? The local bully?
Hold up. His own family?! [Cue the portentous music. Duhn Duhn DUUUHN.]
The boy has successfully turned the mouse into a killing machine and completes the indoctrination by reminding the little guy to always carry tools for cleaning up after the crime spree.
The mouse methodically plots his family’s murder
Meanwhile, the boy, content that his plan is working, pauses to rest
…a fatal mistake any parent would know avoid at all costs. For once you cease vigilance, they will pour the olive oil on the floor, practice throwing knives, and paint the kitchen with the fire extinguisher. (Can’t make that stuff up, people. Each one has happened the few times I dare to pee by myself.)
Note that as the boy sleeps, his student stands pondering, ominously, his unsuspecting teacher. The predator is about to become prey.
Mischievously, the mouse awakens the boy with a request for another lesson in mind-control and chemical subservience. The boy follows willingly, led by an insatiable ego.
But he has been fooled. In the final panel, we witness a gleeful mouse in the middle of a murder scene in which we can surmise he has granted himself unfettered access to cookies by mixing the nearby bleach, powdered cleanser, and milk potion to kill his mentor.
Of course, the newly evil mouse will save a few cookies as bait for the next unsuspecting creature who wanders by the house unsupervised.
Don’t let that someone be your child. Just say no to If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.
And to be safe, teach your children to give all their cookies to you.