February 09, 2006


Babymouse: Queen of the World! By Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. Random House. $5.95.

Babymouse: Our Hero. By Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. Random House. $5.95.

     It’s easy to see that you’re supposed to love Babymouse, a brother-and-sister team’s cartoon creation with adventures aimed at girls ages 7-10.  Babymouse is just adorable, with her frizzy hair…err, whiskers; her shapeless shift dress with a heart on it (reminiscent of the blouses worn by Cathy Guisewite’s cartoon Cathy); her propensity for daydreaming; and her pinkness (the books are in black, white and pink, with pink dominating the many dream sequences).  The Babymouse books are something between comic books and graphic novels, certainly not old-fashioned young-kids comics but not trendy manga, either.  And the slightly askew adventures of this lovable and not-too-furry character fit somewhere between cutesy-pie kid stuff and slam-bang, action-packed graphic novels.

     Babymouse is of course supposed to be a sort of “everygirl,” or “everymouse,” though it is unlikely that girls in the 7-to-10 age group will want to identify themselves with someone called “baby.”  When Babymouse gets frustrated, as she often does, she remarks, “Typical” – a signature comment of sorts.  Babymouse has a best friend, Wilson the Weasel; a little brother, Squeak; and the typical too-popular in-school enemy, Felicia Furrypaws (who happens to be a cat; no real surprise there).

     Babymouse’s adventures are good-natured and good-humored, though not really laugh-out-loud funny.  In Queen of the World! – the first book – she worries about being accepted by Felicia and her shallow groupies, eventually getting a much-craved party invitation by giving Felicia her own book report and getting in trouble.  The party proves spectacularly boring, all gossip and silliness, and Babymouse finally shows some gumption and leaves to watch monster movies with Wilson – whom she had thrown over for Felicia.  In Our Hero, Babymouse is forced to face one of her big school fears: dodgeball.  She frets and worries and gets upset in anticipation of the game, but has to play anyway.  Then Felicia hits Wilson – hard – and Babymouse forgets her fear and scores the winning shot…against Felicia.

     The narratives are actually less interesting than Babymouse’s daydreams within them. She imagines a movie called “Babymouse vs. the Squid,” visualizes herself as “Babymouserella,” imagines that her always-stuck locker is a black hole in one book and a homework-eating monster in the other, and considers what would happen if she turned into “Babymousezilla.”  These pink daydreams have a madcap silliness that almost saves the fairly mundane main stories.  Babymouse is worth sampling for girls in the target age range, but she may have to grow up a bit – or at least grow a little less babyish – to become a really attractive series character.

No comments:

Post a Comment