The True Story of a Mouse Who Never Asked For It by Ana Cristina Herreros,  illustrated by Violeta Lópiz

The True Story of a Mouse Who Never Asked For It by Ana Cristina Herreros,  illustrated by Violeta Lópiz. Enchanted Lion, 2021. 9781592703203

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover picture book

Genre: Folktale

What did you like about the book?  Although the cute white mouse on the cover, investigating a hair dryer on the front and a brass instrument on the back will appeal to young readers, this retelling of a Balearic folktale is billed as a picture book for young adults. In the original tale, a mouse thinks highly of herself so marries a cat, with a predictably unfortunate outcome. Here the story is reimagined as a cautionary tale about domestic violence. The little mouse is pressured into marriage and chooses the smallest, weakest kitten she can find. Alas, as all kittens must, her husband eventually matures into the brutish Top Cat/Don Gato/Catzilla/Catzón and once he gets a taste of mouse, it’s all over for her. A final dramatic double-gate fold out shows a destroyed room with the black cat peeking out from behind a sofa. 

The real standout here is Lópiz’s elegant artwork. The book has a clean, modern look, almost as if it’s created with collage and the limited color palette of gray, white, black, and blue, while small red accents heightens its sophistication. Lópiz creates tension with a series of increasingly menacing objects: precariously balanced folding chairs, pointy scissors, rubber gloves, a string bag that functions as a snare, and a piece of yarn that grows larger and messier, presumably a visual metaphor for the growing danger in Mouse’s marriage. The final crime scene takes on a self-referential tone, as all the objects we’ve seen the mouse investigating are actually Lópiz’s belongings, now strewn about the illustrator’s destroyed apartment. The final two pages show her using the scissors to saw through her long black braid, and then returning to her drawing table, now sporting a sleek, short haircut with the cat at her feet.

Anything you didn’t like about it? I don’t know what the demand will be for a 108 page picture book for teens, especially one that addresses domestic abuse. Most students will not be familiar with the original story, “La Ratita Presumida.” The text is quite lengthy and repetitive, which one expects in a folktale, but won’t help it appeal to teens. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  Teen and adult readers interested in graphic design and art or re-imagined feminist fairy tales. This could be a great option for an ELL class with older students or adults as the visuals really help with decoding and the story is mature and worth discussing.

Who should buy this book? Large public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Well, that’s pretty tricky. Maybe in graphic novels?

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Even though it’s quite strange, its novelty and beauty will make it worth your time. 

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: March 26, 2022

This entry was posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, *Young Adult, Ana Cristina Herreros, Folk Tale, Violeta Lópiz and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.