When I considered the books I was read as a small child one specific picture book stood out, yet I could not even remember the title. All I knew was that there was a giant, juicy, delicious looking strawberry and a mouse in it, and that I for some reason really enjoyed the intricate illustration style. After having to search using only keywords on Google, I rediscovered the book to be The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood.
What instantly struck me was the fact that I chose a book I could hardly remember. The only thing that called out to me was the image of that amazing, huge strawberry and the cool way the illustrator detailed everything. I remember wanting to eat a whole crate of strawberries every time my mom read it to me, especially because the book itself engaged the reader and offered you half of the giant strawberry. The beginning of the book starts by instantly calling out the mischievous, hungry little mouse as it approaches the strawberry. The narrator asks what he’s doing and infers from his tiny little ladder leading up to a beautiful strawberry that fills up a quarter of the page that he’s about to pick it. But then the narrator warns him about the big hungry bear that loves strawberries. As the narrator goes into detail about the bear’s obsession with strawberries, the little mouse tries harder and harder to get the strawberry off the bush, assuming that he was already committed to the strawberry. The mouse succeeds in detaching the strawberry and the narrator warns him of the approaching bear. The bear will find it “no matter where it is hidden or who is guarding it or how it is disguised” (Wood). Then the narrator reveals the trick to keeping a strawberry from a bear, and that is to cut it in half, and share it with the reader.
The way in which this book was written makes the reader play a crucial role in the book. After all, if it wasn’t for the reader, the mouse would have probably been caught and eaten by the bear along with that awesome strawberry. The picture itself stands almost as a window through which the reader helps the little mouse and sees him handing you a strawberry. So how does this come into effect on a child’s learning; how does this shape the young minds of a generation?
The solution to the little mouse’s problem came through manipulation from the reader. The reader convinces the mouse that there is no other way but to share the strawberry to keep from having a confrontation with a bear. Seeing as the mouse was in a frantic hurry to do something, it appears that the reader was taking advantage of his situation, seeing a possible reward for them. So in a sense, the moral of this story could be summed up as follows:
“Take all you can get”.
Clearly, the mouse is doing the same thing. Instead of dropping the silly fantasy of having a strawberry with the risk of being eaten by a bear, he still tries to take all he can get. Even the reader participates in the selfish manipulation, reflected in the behavior of big time company owners and bankers and other types of businessmen who make their living off of screwing people over. In this sense, the message of this picture book follows modern themes that parents might want to read their children if they want them to grow up to be tycoons and CEOs. However, it coordinates in certain ways to the Enlightenment, in John Locke’s terms, to the “child mold” model. In this situation, children are raised and shaped to become proper citizens and gentlemen, aimed at success. Since even before the Enlightenment, success is synonymous with wealth. So in this way, teaching children all about gain and acquirement would serve to provide children with those types of skills and morals to better equip them for a certain kind of life. According to Strasburger, “with each new experience, a child stores more and more
information in highly organized ways in memory” (Strasburger 30). These structures, called schemas, may determine the way that children process and assimilate information later on in life. So this information would support the fact that reading a book that solves problems through gaining assets from others will guide you down similar paths later on. In Blake’s poem, “Introduction”, he states that with his pen, he “stained the water clear”. This could be inferred as a way of saying that he made a permanent mark on this child’s perception that would change the way he viewed things forever, because children are so impressionable at young ages. This “stain” might be a determining factor later on in the child’s life, whether it is miniscule or huge.
Each little thing a child experiences makes a difference on who they will become. Whether it is from books or lessons or a picture they saw in passing, children may be subconsciously swayed by many different things that may surface later on.