The True Story of a Mouse Who Never Asked for It

Unruly. Jun. 2021. 108p. Tr $22.95. ISBN 9781592703203.
Gr 9 Up–This vibrant and unusual Spanish import retells the popular folktale “La Ratita Presumida” with a feminist twist. It opens with an image of a white, red-eyed mouse hidden behind a skein of yarn. Described as “very neat and very hardworking,” the mouse interacts with various domestic objects that connect with the text either literally or symbolically. Eventually, the mouse makes herself “a modest home.” Various animal suitors (donkeys, ducks, cats, and kittens) ask for her hand. Begrudgingly, the mouse chooses the “tiniest” and “most defenseless” kitten to marry. Already rocky at the start, the marriage gets worse when the black kitten grows up to be a very large Catzón. A powerful gatefold translates the story’s animal metaphor into a realistic scene. Final images depict a brown-skinned human woman cleaning up a room in disrepair. A black cat watches. This inaugural title in the Unruly imprint of picture books for older readers is rich with opportunities for rereading and discussion. The art’s restrictive color palette serves as a visual vocabulary that effectively connects all the objects—which initially feel disjointed—in later scenes of the full room. The slow reveal is rewarding, albeit heartbreaking alongside its hopefulness. Though the story is really about the brown-skinned woman, the choice to use white for victim and black for predator adds an unfortunate layer.
VERDICT Though powerful and original, the title is best suited for larger collections. Libraries may also face a difficult question of where to shelve it.

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