The Books That Made Me; If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
This book, with its distinctive cover and adorable overall-clad mouse, worked its way into our hearts in 1985. Just as I was learning to read, this book was hitting the shelves for the first time. That’s probably why it feels to me like it’s been around forever.
I love Laura Numeroff’s circular tale, but If You Give a Mouse a Cookie may not have become a favorite without Felicia Bond’s Illustrations. She painstakingly layered each color in pencils and they came together for the final product. Bond writes and illustrates her own books as well. One of our favorites is Big Hugs, Little Hugs. She also illustrates for other authors like Margaret Wise Brown’s Big Red Barn.
The subsequent books in the “If You Give… “ series are also wonderful. If You Give a Pig a Pancake was one of Oprah’s favorite things in 2000 and the moose in If You Give a Moose a Muffin is one of the cutest characters in any book. But I still love the original the best. This page where you see just how small the mouse is compared to a crayon is one of my favorite spreads in any book ever. Imagine the possibilities with a crayon if you had paper that big.
As an adult, I’ve related to the characters differently depending on my life stage.
When I had toddlers, I was the little boy -running around cleaning up messes when the kids were being “creative” or “helpful”. Don’t get me wrong, I still do a lot of that, but lately my kids are a little more independent than the mouse. I would read this book to my kids and they’d laugh at the mouse clipping his whiskers and getting distracted at every turn and I’d think, “You are exactly like this mouse.” And we’d play and make messes and I’d be so exhausted just like the boy at the end of the book.
But many days, I wasn’t at all like the little boy. The kids would ask to do something and I’d think what a mess it would make and I’d simply say, “No.” I won’t allow myself to feel guilty about those days, but I know we’d have had more adventures if I cared more about making memories instead of not making messes.
Now that I’m in my forties, I often relate to the mouse. How many times have I heard someone reference this book when they’re trying to clean the house? I can get so distracted when I’m doing a task. In fact, just today I went downstairs to get an envelope. We keep the stamps and address labels upstairs and the envelopes downstairs. I have no idea why. And you know what? I probably won’t think about it until I need another envelope, but don’t expect me to move them. Anyway, as I was heading downstairs for an envelope, I remembered that I needed to see if we had any flash cards for Nora since they’re on her school supply list. I poked around for a while, saw that the set we had was in pretty bad shape, so I looked around for my phone to order some on Amazon. I looked for it in my craft room, and realized I had a bag of stuff I needed to put away down there. One of the items was a music book, so I put it on the piano. It was a mess with music pages and books everywhere, so I stopped and tidied it. For some reason, a printout of the school calendar was with the sheet music. I realized it was the old version before some changes were made, so I and decided to print the new one. I still couldn’t find my phone, so I went upstairs to find it. It was on the table next the to paper I needed to mail in an envelope which was still downstairs! See? Over forty me isn’t the kid anymore. I’M THE MOUSE!.
No matter how you relate to this book, the literary world is more wonderful for kids and adults because Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond gave us this modern classic. It’s a book that made me and so many others like me fall in love with reading.
The next time you’re growing patience as you deal with a little one or lose your train of thought and get distracted, I hope you’ll think of the little boy and the mouse who did those things so well.