Picture Books – Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears

Poor Little Mouse. He’s arachnophobic, and aichmophobic (fear of knives), and phagophobic (afraid of being eaten). In fact, he’s pretty much panophobic (afraid of everything). But even if he’s a bit of a scaredy ca- er, mouse, he can still take pleasure in the fact that, terrified as he is, a human is still scared of him

Emily Gravett has used collage and unusual book design to her advantage in the past, but it reaches new heights with this title. The format is supposedly a “book of fears” workbook, one which has a fear and its explanation at the top, and the space beneath it to “record and face your fears”. Little Mouse has done just that, drawing or pasting to fill each page with his specific reasons for having that specific fear. We can see the mouse and his pencil as he reacts to his own fears. The pages feature dog ears and “nibbled” pages that leave the edges of the book uneven. While not a pop-up book by any means, several of the pages have fold-out sections, such as a map or leaves of a newspaper.

As an example, on the Aichmophobia (fear of knives) page, we see Little Mouse holding his tail with a worried expression beneath a picture of the Three Blind Mice, a “newspaper article” describing the cutting of mouse tails, and a Mousecrobat Circus Trio (“Did you ever see such a thing in your life?”) poster with a big “CANCELED” stamped across it.

The fears range from logical (being eaten) to whimsical (having an accident while trying to figure out how to use a human toilet while the size of a mouse) and everything in between.The facial expression on the mouse are priceless. While I’m not usually a fan of collage (the results are usually a little too busy for my personal tastes) the found object approach here is done wonderfully. The collage objects are used to enhance the total experience, and do not overwhelm with images or create an overwhelming picture.

While the lack of a cohesive story line, and the probability that kids will want to pore over the details on each page, means that this book is not the best choice for group sharing or story time, it will have great one on one appeal for young children, and I suspect that older children reading on their own will also enjoy it.

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