A mouse realizes that his dislike for cheese is just because he hasn’t found the right flavor in this debut children’s tale by author Woolford and illustrator Stumpf.
Nick, a mouse, doesn’t care for cheese, but he isn’t picky about other foods: “Carrots, peas, beans, beef, chicken, beets and corn / Had all been Nick’s favorites since the day he was born.” His mother, though, pressures him into eating cheese and even sneaks it into his food. Nick can always tell when she does this, and eventually he decides that he wants her to accept him for who he is. At this point, the book leads readers to expect that Nick is on a journey toward self-acceptance: he’s different, and that’s OK. But instead, his mother offers him a deal if he’ll try a piece of Parmesan cheese: “If you don’t like it, then my nagging is through. / I won’t beg you to eat cheese again, not even the Bleu.” Nick does so and discovers that he does indeed like it. The experience makes him turn over a new leaf, and he’s suddenly eager to try every cheese he comes across. The silly concept of a mouse who doesn’t like cheese is likely to appeal to young readers. Woolford’s poetry rhymes reasonably well, but it scans at different rhythms, making it easy to stumble over while reading aloud. Stumpf’s illustrations are cute, featuring a mix of pen-and-ink and watercolors, but the combination of humanized characters and strict geometric shapes representing cheeses sometimes feels a little awkward. (Nick’s backward red cap and supertwisty tail distinguish him in the images from the cheese-loving mice—in this case, everyone else.) A final page offers an interactive opportunity for children to draw or list a food that they’re unsure about but willing to try—a challenging combination.
An easily accessible picture book that might be a good choice for parents struggling to get their children to try new foods, even if its initial setup about self-acceptance doesn’t pan out.