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Mercer Mayer: "Little Criter" Short Stories And The Crucial Life Lessons They Portray

1412 words - 6 pages

Mercer Mayer is an American artist and short story author who was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on December 30, 1943. He grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii, and attended art school in Honolulu and New York City. He has written over 300 short stories, some with the help of his current wife, Gina Mayer. The stories I have chosen to analyze are part of his “Little Critter” series. These stories include “Little Critter’s The Fussy Princess,” “Taking Care of Mom,” “I Was so Mad,” “The New Baby,” and “A Very Special Critter.” All of these stories were a big part of my childhood and hold a special place in my heart.
Mercer Mayer’s writing style for all of these books is along the same line as far ...view middle of the document...

These five characters constitute the common denominator of characters in the series and are a commonality between all of Mayer’s “Little Critter” books. The difference between the books then, arguably, are the characters that are in focus. For example, in “A Very Special Critter,” the entire book is about a new student at Little Critter’s School: Alex. Alex is in a wheelchair, so Little Critter’s dad talks to him about how even though Alex is different, he is just like everybody else. This book is completely centered around the character that is being introduced. This is a common theme for Mayer; he has written many other stories completely based around a new character, such as “Spending Time with Grandpa” and “The Fussy Princess.” While characters are crucial to the diversity of Mayer’s stories, the setting in each story is also important.
Throughout his stories, Mayer has chosen many different settings, along with some common settings as well. A specific time is never truly mentioned (except in the case of “The Fussy Princess”, where the time is said to be “a long, long time ago”), although it is easy to gauge which stories are older based on character development (the addition of Little Sister and then Little Brother later on). As for the setting, some stories are unique in that they are based on the setting in which they take place. For example, in “The Fussy Princess” the story starts out in Little Critter’s bedroom (he is telling his sister a bedtime story) but the setting is quickly moved to a medieval castle. Some of Mayer’s stories include common settings mixed with new settings; for instance, the story “A Very Special Critter” takes place partly in Little Critter’s home, partly at the school, and partly on a playground at the park. While Mayer chose to write some stories with all new settings and some with mixed settings, he also chose the third and most common way between the five stories I chose to read, which is a story with a consistent setting throughout. Of the five stories I read by Mayer, three of them are set in Little Critter’s home. “I Was so Mad”, “Taking Care of Mom”, and “The New Baby” all are consistent in their location and have the most basic form of a setting. While the setting of a story is extremely important, the life lesson, or the theme of the story is far more vital.
Mercer Mayer deals with several life lessons and moral afflictions as themes of his writing. He wrote all of his “Little Critter” series for children, so while the writing style may be simple and easy to understand, the underlying message is still consequential, even for adults. For example, in “A Very Special Critter” Mayer introduces a new character, Alex, who is in a wheelchair. At first, Little Critter and his classmates are concerned about the new boy and how different he is. Little Critter even talks to his dad about the issue, only to be reassured that Alex is just like everyone else. After Alex arrives at...

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