"If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" is a picture book published in 1985, written by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond. This book actually postdates my childhood a little bit, so I don't think I ever read it when I was in its intended target market. But over the years, curiosity built up in me, probable triggered by the conditional statement in the title. The "if" in the title draws interest in the way a simple statement would not.
There are, it turns out, consequences to giving a mouse a cookie. The mouse will want milk. And then a napkin. And then a mirror to make sure he still looks tidy. And so on: the story follows the Mouse through a whirlwind of requests and projects that come from the initial cookie donation. Many children's books follow a repetitive structure that is easy to grasp, and this book is a prime example: each page is based on an "if...then" where the previous activity leads to a new activity, that is somewhat easy to guess based on how the last activity concluded. It makes for fun reading and is a good way to introduce children to chains of causality.
But I was also am wondering about the book's subtext. It might seem like a joke to overanalyze a children's book, but the book left me genuinely curious about the message. Because the mouse makes a casual request, which quickly snowballs into being invited into the boy's house and taking over his day. Not all of the mouse's projects are selfish, and some are quite altruistic (cleaning the boy's house), but they are certainly an imposition. It could be that the book is an encouraging one, about how making or accepting small gestures of friendship can lead to new and exciting opportunities. However, part of me read it as a cautionary tale: that accepting people on a casual level can often lead to being taken advantage of and intruded on by those with boundary issues. Some might think that me putting this level of thought into the book is a bit much, but these issues did jump out at me while reading.