Power of Sentence Fragments

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is a picture book written by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond. When I first read this book years ago, I immediately went back and read it again because the story naturally loops back to the start. Each page talks about a mouse’s request and the consequences it follows. At the end, the request loops back to the beginning as the mouse asks for a cookie yet again, restarting the cycle of requests.

The story builds suspense by breaking up the dependent clauses from the independent clauses. On each page of the book, there is usually just either the dependent or independent clause of a sentence. Since most of the sentences start with the dependent clause, it forces the readers to look at the next page for the resolution of the sentence. Also, the texts are on the edges of the page to further dramatize the effect. Meanwhile, the story hangs in suspense for the audience. The story also moves rapidly with the mouse, further adding curiosity to the readers on what would happen next.

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As for the pictures, the illustrator draws the mouse very small. This allows the readers to focus on the background. The scenes are always very detailed and are filled with vibrant colors, which add to the energy and the fast-paced plot of the book. In addition, there is always a mess that is left by the mouse, which adds to the unruliness of the plot.

For a lot of the times, the mouse is in the background in the middle of all the mess in the house. However, during the close shots of the mouse, the high energy of the character is clearly expressed by its facial expressions, which reflects the tone. This is contrasted by the neutral look of the boy, who never seems to have a strong feeling one way or another as a side character in this book.

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Although the pictures may not be photo-realistic, the illustrations effectively captures the disarray the situation. The combination of vibrant and detailed backgrounds along with broken sentence structures effectively keep the readers excited on what the mouse will do next.

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4 Responses to Power of Sentence Fragments

  1. Denny Lee says:

    Wow, I loved this book as a kid. I specifically remember my teacher reading it to us in class. I agree with you about the dependent clauses really forcing you to turn to the next page keeping the reader interested. When I was a kid I don’t remember even picking up on that. I just remember the suspense building up every page and all of us just waiting for the teacher to turn and read the next page. While I agree that making the mouse small was in the authors intentions for the reader to focus on the back ground, I think the author drew it small just to be realistic and not have a giant mouse in the page. Really great analysis!

  2. Morgan Lee says:

    Not only did I read this book as a kid, But I read If You Take a Mouse To School, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, and If You Give a Pig a Pancake. All are great pieces I highly recommend if you enjoy the cookie book. I completely agree that these books have a way of holding your attending by keeping you suspended with every cliff hanger that happens page to page. Not only do the words and clauses keep you interested, but the illustrations are also incredibly fun to look at. I could spend a long time as a child studying what the characters were doing on each page, finding something new every time I reopened the book. I like your comment that the story loops back around to the beginning , causing a child to want to read it again and again. Now that I think about it, all of those books do that. They are all overall super engaging, and I also really enjoyed your take on the children’s book!

  3. Marc Larvie says:

    I also read this book as a child, and it brings back some memories. I enjoy this book because it is very simple, but also explores some interesting themes, namely how giving in to someone’s requests can have consequences, and even lead to further requests. A real-world parallel to the scenarios in this book is a child begging for a lollipop at the store checkout. If the parent gives in, the child is more likely to beg again the next time due to the expectation that the parent will give in to a temper tantrum. If the parent doesn’t give in and explains that lollipops are unhealthy and not worth the money, the child is less likely to try begging again the next time. This subtle theme allows the book to appeal to both parents and children, with the parents expecting their child to take a lesson from the book and not ask too many things of their parents and the child finding a sympathetic character (the mouse) to relate to in their plight. I think this picture book is a pleasant, simple read with a recurring theme of the challenges of dealing with demands.

  4. Edwin Lopez says:

    Wow! The nostalgia!!

    I remember reading this book as a child, and the experience every time was amazing. I enjoyed it even more when someone read it to me, especially in school. As a child, I did not realize the importance of the separation of independent and dependent clauses; now it all makes sense though. I remember my teacher would read the dependent clause of the page on the left, and I would already be glancing at the second page to see what the mouse did next. Additionally, it’s interesting that you mentioned the effect of such small mouse on each page. I agree with you when you argue that the author makes the mouse small to have the audience focus on the background details rather than the mouse. Another possibility, though, may be that the author wanted to keep the children engaged. When my teacher would read it, I would always try to find the mouse first, and then I would look at the rest of the picture. Numeroff and Bond both do a great job in keeping their audience’s attention.

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