Anthropomorphic Mice in Children's Literature
(fanfare and applause)
I know, weird. But I can't shake it, so I figure I may as well write about it.
It was upon finding a novel at Dan's school library entitled Time Stops for No Mouse: An Hermux Tantamoq Adventure, that I had an epiphany. There are a lot of books about mice. A lot. I did a quick brainstorm:
|courtesy of dianakimpton.co.uk|
- Stuart Little, of course (E.B. White)
- Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (Robert O'Brien)
- The Mouse and the Motorcycle (Beverly Cleary)
- The Rescuers (Margery Sharp)
- The Great Cheese Conspiracy (Jean Van Leeuwen)
- A Rat's Tale (Tor Seidler)
- Ben and Me (Robert Lawson)
- The Tale of Desperaux (Kate DiCamillo)
What about cats and dogs? Rabbits? I decided to make an official list.
In order to make the list:
- The book has to be a novel with chapters. No easy-readers, no Beatrix Potter.
- The animal must be the protagonist.
- The animal must act like a human: speak, cook, ride a motorcycle, wear clothes, fall in love, etc.
- TV and cartoons are okay.
I found 28 novels and feature-length films starring talking mice or rats, not including the Babymouse (14 books), Ricky Ricotta (7 books) and Geronimo Stilton (40 books!) super-series. There were three iconic cartoon mice (Mickey, Minnie, and Jerry). I also found 7 novels and films in which the talking mouse is a minor or secondary character.
I came up with thirty-odd movies and books featuring dogs, but fifteen are about dogs who act like dogs: Lassie, Benji, Old Yeller, Ribsy, etc. Then there are the commercial dogs: the Taco Bell chihuahua, Spike the Bud Light dog. And here's the something else: not a single book about an anthropomorphic dog. They're all cartoons except for that stupid Beethoven movie. Weird.
Three books featuring cats that act like people:
- The Tokaido Road (Lucia St. Clare Robson--kind of doesn't count because it's a novel for adults)
- Captain Kidd's Cat (Robert Lawson--sort of a companion to Ben and Me)
- A Lloyd Alexander book whose title I can't remember
Plus there's a series of fantasy/science fiction books about a cat (or cats) that a couple of Dan's girl classmates spent months reading through. Can't remember the name of the series, though.
Two movies featuring talking cats: The Aristocats (Disney) and Bolt (Disney--also features a dog)
Three cartoon cats (Sylvester, Jerry, the Cat in the Hat)
Two with a cat as a minor character: Through the Looking Glass (Lewis Carroll) and the Disney movie Alice in Wonderland.
No clue what this all means. Maybe mice are more fun to write about because despite how closely we live together, they're largely invisible to us. They have a secret life. Dogs we see all the time. They have no secret life. Cats are more opaque and more interesting, but--maybe not sympathetic?
So there's my Ph. D., should I ever decide to pursue one. Let me know if I've missed any good books.