Madison Gallup ’18/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
In honor of International Women’s Day, which passed earlier in the month (March 8th), this Flashback Friday is for a children’s book by James Howe that celebrates gender equality through the story of three mice who are best friends. Horace and Morris But Mostly Dolores (published by Scholastic) is a tale of friendship surviving society imposed gender roles. There are some pretty valuable lessons to be learned within the thirty pages of this book.
Amy Walrod’s vivid and stylized illustrations are crucial because of how much of the book they make up. Many of the textual details included actually come through within the illustrations, whether that be on a sign or in a text bubble from one of the characters. Walrod’s pictures clearly are important to making the book appear lively and engaging for children, but they also provide a lot of unique character and wit to the story. Every page is colorful and detailed. There seems to be a new little joke or image to discover each time the book is reread.
Howe’s story is essentially about three best mice friends who go on many fun adventures together. This all changes when the group comes across the Mega-Mice clubhouse. The sign outside the house declares that no girls are allowed in. Suddenly Horace and Morris are faced with the decision to leave their best friend Dolores or miss out on a new potential adventure. Dolores faces a similar decision upon discovering The Cheese Puffs house which does not allow boys.
As the story progresses it becomes apparent that Dolores does not fit in with the other girl mice in The Cheese Puffs. With topics of discussion such as “How to Get a Fella Using Mozzarella,” it is not difficult to understand why she loudly declares her boredom to the group. Ultimately, accompanied by her new friend Chloris, Dolores leaves to reunite with her best friends. Horace, Morris, and their friend Boris all leave their club to join the two girls. Together they build the Frisky Whisker Club where everyone is allowed.
Having a female protagonist is wonderful itself, but having her call attention to gender stereotypes and sexism is crazily progressive for a children’s book. Howe never makes his story seem preachy or overloaded. In a very short amount of time, these characters start to mean a lot to the reader simply because of how true their friendship is and how sad they are to be apart. With adorable phrases thrown in like “now-and-forever-i’m-yours kind of friends,” and clever puns like “they sailed the seven sewers” and “climbed Mount Ever Rust,” Howe manages to make this book an entertaining read for everyone.
While Howe’s story is short, sweet, and simple, the message he delivers rings true. Essentially, gender roles are for the birds. Girls can have interests other than making crafts out of cheese all day and boys to not have to always play with toy guns and rope. The best adventures are had when there are no restrictions on who can participate, and everyone should try to channel their inner Dolores and speak out against what they feel is wrong. Dolores would likely be quite pleased that International Women’s Day, as would Horace, Morris, Chloris, and Boris. They all know that the world is best when there are less boundaries and restrictions based on gender.