Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears

By EMILY GRAVITT

Emily Gravitt’s Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears is a compendium of phobias, among them Ablutophobia (fear of bathing), Dystychiphobia (fear of accidents) and Rupopphobia (fear of dirt). The conceit is the format: a blank journal with writing prompts — “Teratophobia (Fear of Monsters). Use the space below to record your fears.” Little Mouse fills the pages with black-and-white pencil drawings, mocked-up newspaper articles, and photographs creating a layered lift-the-flap, textured scrapbook. As Little Mouse writes, “I get edgy near sharp knives,” the double-page spread is a detailed tribute to “Three Blind Mice.” From the clues in the pictures we discover a trio of visually impaired rodent acrobats in a publicity poster. On the facing page a newspaper reports that an insane farmer’s wife attacked them with a carving knife. The humor is subtle and sophisticated, more “aha” than guffaw. Common childhood fears are expressed, like the fear of being sucked down the bathtub drain and the fears of being lost or alone in the dark. Each page presents a brilliant representation of terror. The most stunning is the fold-out Visitors’ Map of the Isle of Fright, shaped like the outline of a mouse pinpointing the physical location of the symptoms of dread — from the Mount of Apprehension in the ears down to Loose Bottom. Although our protagonist is afraid of almost everything, in the end, he finds that some are afraid of him: Musophobia (fear of mice).

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