Holm, J.L., &, Holm, M. (2005). Babymouse: Queen of the world. New York: Random House.
Appetizer: Babymouse can't seem to make friends with the popular animals at school and can never get her whiskers straight. She imagines being the queen of the world or even assistant queen to Felicia Furrypaws. If only Babymouse can find a way to be invited to Felicia's sleepover, even if it means missing out on plans with her best friend, Wilson the Weasel.
With a black and white and pink cover and a mouse wearing a dress on the cover, my natural inclination was to read this book for the way gender is treated. Isn't that what you think about too, when you pick up a graphic novel for early and middle elementary students? Yes, yes, anyone? Hello?
Well, any-hoo, based on all the pink and Babymouse's love for the dresses, the story does play into certain gender stereotypes, but at the same time, Babymouse isn't just a a representation of girly, curly-whiskered girls everywhere. Her best friend is a boy, she has fantasies of being a detective, starship captain and a legendary cowgirl and when she is actually faced with spending an evening down her hair and putting on makeup with the other girls, she finds she misses watching squid movies with Wilson. So, overall, the way gender is presented is much more complicated and interesting than the stereotype of the pink and dress-wearing girl.
I also like the attention that the Holm siblings gave to representing Babymouse's world visually. I liked this splashes of pink here and there with the otherwise black and white illustrations.
"Babymouse didn't have a lot of expectations. Well, maybe just a few. QUEEN OF THE WORLD!" (pp. 14-15).
"It seemed like everyone was invited to the slumber party. Almost everyone" (pp. 39-40).
"Babymouse knew the slumber party was her big chance to show Felicia Furrypaws how cool she was!" (p. 41).
"And then it happened.
TEACHER: Please pass up you book reports.
FELICIA: I forgot my book report. Can I have yours?
FELICIA: You can come to the slumber party..." (p. 51).
To Go with the Meal:
This books encourages visual literacy (especially within the first few pages where the reader can learn a lot about Babymouse by the objects in her room). It also tries to capture the attention of young female readers who too often are left to think that comics and graphic novels "are for the boys."
Teachers can discuss the tensions in the story--What Babymouse does to try to befriend Felicia. Would you ever do something like that? What makes a friend a good one? Many young girls will be able to relate to Babymouse's feelings of wanting to feel included.
A teacher could also focus on the types of stories Babymouse fantasizes about throughout the story. As recommendations (for after the young readers finish the rest of the Babymouse series) a teacher could recommend some detective stories, fairy tales, Western-style picturebooks, etc.
Tasty Rating: !!!!