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Literature / Little Critter

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Little Critter is a children's book series created by Mercer Mayer in 1975. Its eponymous character is a porcupine-like... critter of some sort, who narrates the majority of his own stories. The first book involved him trying to make special things for his mother. Later on, his father and grandparents are shown as well, and he gains a little sister and, in some books, a baby brother.

The books were the subject of several adaptations in the 1990s, including "Living Books", or CD-ROM versions which featured narrations of the books over Easter Egg-laden stills of each page (along with a more traditional point-and-click Adventure Game in 2001, Little Critter and the Great Race). More recently, Oceanhouse Media acquired the rights to the titles and have released a number of interactive mobile apps with a very similar concept.

The main series ended in 2004 and continues as The New Adventures series. The series has spun off several spin-off series. The Little Critter Storybooks series features stories about the Critter Kids, one-shot funny animal children similar to Little Critter. The Little Sister series brings Little Critter's eponymous little sister to the limelight. Critters of the Night is similar to the Little Critter Storybooks, but are readers and feature horror-based characters. Mercer published a chapter book and comic book series targeting older children called LC and the Critter Kids based on an older Little Critter, but it ended up being not popular enough to sustain. Readers, board books, activity books, and workbooks have been published.

Meyer Self Plagiarised this series for another series of his, Little Monster, featuring a dragon child.

A full list of the books can be seen here.

Just some Little Critter tropes:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: While some adults would usually get upset or Face Palm at Little Critter's antics, sometimes illustrations show them being more amused. Little Critter's mother acts this way the most.
  • Adaptational Badass: Yes, really. In the books, Little Critter's "Super Critter" persona was just a fantasy he talked about in one book. In the CD-ROM version of Just Me and My Mom had some instances where clicking specific spots show Super Critter being an actual superhero that Little Critter can change into when no one's looking and he sees a situation that requires his help.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The CD-ROM version of Just Me and My Mom adds extra areas not present in the original book. For example, the train station at the beginning has a coffee shop that Little Critter can visit to drink from the water fountain.
  • Adapted Out: Inverted in the Animated Adaptation of Just Me and My Dad with Little Sister. In the original book written in 1977, Little Sister doesn't appear as she wasn't even born yet! She appears briefly in the animated version during the start, not being allowed to go camping with her dad and Little Critter.
  • Ambiguously Christian: Happy Easter, Little Critter has Little Critter and his family going to a Christian-style church. However, God or Jesus isn't mentioned.
  • An Aesop: Some of the books teach a lesson for younger readers. For example, Being Thankful shows Little Critter upset at others getting bigger snacks or having nice toys that he doesn't have but his grandparents teach him to be happy with what he has.
  • Animated Adaptation: Just Me and My Dad was made into one. Also, the story Just For You was adapted into a "Golden Book Video" title in 1985 (as part of Mercer Mayer's "Herbert the Timid Dragon and Other Tales"), which narrated the story over stills from the book with simple Limited Animation effects. There have also been two attempts at adapting the property for television, neither of which got off the ground.
  • Annoyingly Repetitive Child:
    • In "Baby Sister Says No", a baby version of Little Sister says, "No (x)!" in response to everything Little Critter does. Little Critter gets sick of this and asks their mother to do something about it.
    • In "Me Too!", Little Sister says the book's title every time Little Critter does something fun, and he is displeased by this, although downplayed as it's not the repetition that bugs him, so much as the fact that he would rather do things by himself or with his friends.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling:
    • Little Sister, who is shown as whiny and gets in the way. Baby Brother downplays this, as he's a baby, who can't do too many things.
    • Taken up to eleven in the 1987 book Baby Sister Says No; Little Sister, shown in this book still as a baby in diapers, stops Little Critter and his friend from playing with any toys or doing anything.
  • Appropriate Animal Attire: Little Critter is usually a Fully-Dressed Cartoon Animal, but his attire varies in some books. For a while, Little Critter wore only overalls. However in "Just For You,", "Merry Christmas Mom and Dad", "Play with Me", "Just Go to Bed", Critter Kids book series Little Critter was completely nude while his mother was fully clothed. Also in the book "When I Get Bigger" Little Critter was completely undressed while telling the readers what he wanted to be when he grows up. He is seen walking to the candy store wearing a shirt but no pants and walking barefoot. Sometimes he is fully dressed going to school but wears only a shirt at the playground and most of the time. He was also undressed while taking a bath in Just Me in the Tub. Also Little Critters sister was once undressed in "Little Sisters Bracelet" and in "The New Potty" during the potty training she is seen without her diaper on and overalls on while using the toilet.
  • Art Evolution: Somewhere along the way, Little Critter and family lost their slightly capybara-like faces (as shown here), morphing into a more generic rodent face with a bulbous nose.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: The characters are generally seen barefoot, though they are often fully dressed otherwise.
  • Baths Are Fun:
    • Just Me in the Tub depicts the things Little Critter does to get ready for his bath and then him having fun in it, though only after he washes.
    • It goes back even further to Just For You. Little Critter explains, "I wanted to not splash in my bath just for you... but there was a storm."
    • In Just Go To Bed, Little Critter plays with a toy boat and pretends to be a sea monster, but Dad makes him get out, saying it's time for the sea monster to have a snack.
  • Beach Episode: Just Grandma and Me takes place at a beach. Just a Day at the Pond also features everyone having splashy fun at an aquatic setting.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: What happens in Just Leave Me Alone to Little Critter. He wants to be by himself but his whole family won't let him be. Little Critter complains when he's called for dinner and his father tells him to stay in his room since he wants to be alone. Then missing his family, Little Critter changes his mind and joins everyone else for dinner.
  • Big-Hearted Bigfoot: Despite being the subject of Little Critter's fears in Just Me and My Dad, Bigpaw as he's known is just another harmless animal of the forest. At worst he might sneak into your camp at night to steal a tasty bag of chips.
  • Bowdlerization: Originally in Just Shopping With Mom, when Little Sister is behaving badly in the supermarket, Mom warns her, "I told you, no candy today. Would you like a spanking instead?" Some time in the mid-90s, the spanking line was changed to "Would you like to go to time-out instead?" Also originally in the 1990 book Just Me and My Mom There is 2 pages that originally features Little Critter at the museum in the Native Critter section trying on the headdress attire pretending to be an Indian Chief with his mom and the security guard annoyed at him was changed in the 2014 reprints which cut out the Native Critter section altogether. However it's still featured in the Oceanhouse Media app game Just Me and My Mom.
  • A Boy, a Girl, and a Baby Family: Played straight with Little Critter, Little Sister and Baby Brother, when he actually appears.
  • Bubble Gum Popping: This happens to Little Sister in Just Too Little. Little Critter and friends bring her back some bubble gum but while they blow bubbles, we see Little Sister's bubble gum has burst, leaving her hands and face Covered in Gunge.
  • Canon Foreigner: Mercer Mayer didn't actually write any of the LC and the Critter Kids books, he only illustrated them, with the writing being done by longtime partners John R. Sansevere and Erica Farber, so the characters who made their debut in that series can be considered as such. Notable examples include Gabby, Timothy, and Tiger, who would all later migrate into the main Little Critter series.
  • Cartoon Creature: Just what is Little Critter anyway? At best, he looks like some sort of rodent.
  • Character Development:
    • In the earliest books, Little Critter seems to be about four years of age. In later ones he attends school and seems to be closer to eight or nine.
    • Little Critter's father is dressed rather conservatively in the early books. He's shown with glasses plus a vest and tie. Later books have him dressed more casually.
  • Continuity Nod: In This Is My School, Little Critter recounts to his classmates how a bear once stole his food while he was camping, which happened in Just Me and My Dad.
  • Cool Old Guy: Little Critter's grandpa counts; he first appears in the 1983 book Just Grandpa and Me where he takes his grandson to the city to buy him a new suit. Little Critter's grandpa is seen throughout the book as a Sharp-Dressed Man in a suit, cane, spats and a derby. Later books show Grandpa lives on a farm, but still cool as both Little Critter and Little Sister enjoy visiting him.
  • Darker and Edgier: Critter Kids.
    • Also, the Animated Adaptation of "Just Me and My Dad" seems to be slightly Darker and Edgier than the book that inspired it. It includes the reoccuring theme of Bigpaw, which isn't present in the book (there is one part in the book where Little Critter tells his dad "a ghost story," but Bigpaw isn't specificly named), the message that "this is the animal's home and we're their guests," which gets STRONGLY enforced by the end of the video, and the scene where Little Critter and his dad almost crash into a billboard.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Little Sister was the focus of a few books such as Just a Nap, Just a Rainy Day and Just a Thunderstorm.
  • The Dentist Episode: Just Going to the Dentist focuses on Little Critter having a dentist appointment.
  • The Diaper Change: Little Brother is shown getting one in Just a Gum Wrapper while he's undressed. The book explains that his family uses cloth diapers because it's better for the environment, though it gets kind of messy.
  • Down on the Farm: Little Critter's grandparents are shown living on a farm not too far away, complete with crops and livestock. A few books deal with Little Critter and sometimes Little Sister visiting said farm.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Little Critter was naked in the early stories.
  • Empathy Pet: Little Critter has a couple of non-anthro animals in the books, consisting of one or more of the following: a grasshopper, spider, frog and mouse. They tag along on his adventures and react to his behavior.
  • Face Palm: Little Critter's dad is seen doing this on the cover of Just Helping My Dad as Little Critter stands holding a shovel in a puddle of water created from a hose he left running.
  • Fantastic Racism: The turtle/rabbit kid in Just a Little Different gets this, but Little Critter will have none of it and invites him over to play.
  • Fear of Thunder: Little Critter and Little Sister are both afraid of it and Little Sister's fear of it is the subject of Just a Thunderstorm.
  • First-Person Perspective: With the exception of the fairy tale or bedtime story books, the stories are told like this.
  • First Pet Story: Just Me and My Puppy is this; Little Critter trades a baseball glove to a friend in exchange for a puppy. Hilarity Ensues as he's shown caring for the puppy. Little Critter still has a dog in later books (which he still refers to as a "puppy") but this one looks different, resembling a beagle or Basset hound, and is sometimes given the name "Blue".
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: Compared to previous computer games, Little Critter and the Great Race is a point-and-click Adventure Game instead of an interactive storybook.
  • Furry Confusion:
    • In Just Go to Bed, Little Critter pretends to be a rabbit. It could be justified in that he might have been pretending to be another person who just happened to be a rabbit.
    • In Just Pick Us, Please!, Little Critter and his friends help the local animal shelter to host a pet fair, which includes a hodgepodge of anthropomorphic animals all adopting various pet animals, including on one page an anthropomorphic rabbit holding what very much appears to be a non-anthro rabbit.
    • It's Easter, Little Critter! also features Little Critter and Little Sister getting a pet rabbit named Egg for Easter, despite the aforementioned presence of anthropomorphic rabbits in other titles.
  • "Getting Ready for Bed" Plot: Not one but two entries dealing with this trope. The first was Just Go To Bed with Little Critter constantly ordered by his parents to go to bed after he keeps stalling. The second was Just A Nap featuring Little Sister in a similar plot trying to resist her mother's efforts at getting her to nap.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: Q-ball, the villain of the Critter Kids book Octopus Island, was a crab— possibly the only anthropomorphic invertebrate in the whole series.
  • Go-to-Sleep Ending: Plenty!
    • Just For Yu (You) has Little Critter do something very special for his mom before going to bed... by giving her a kiss.
    • Just Me and My Dad ends with Little Critter and his dad going to sleep in their tent.
    • When I Get Bigger ends with Little Critter saying that one thing he'll do when he's older is stay up late to see the end of the late movie, not having to go to bed if he feels sleepy, but right now he has to go to bed, because according to his parents, he's not bigger yet.
    • Just Go to Bed, of course, since the story is a "Getting Ready for Bed" Plot.
    • Just Grandma and Me ends with Little Critter falling asleep on the bus ride home from the beach.
    • Just Me and My Babysitter has a different variation; Little Critter and his sister stay up really late until their parents get home, while their elderly female babysitter falls asleep due to the stress from the kids' antics.
    • Just Me and My Mom ends with Little Critter falling asleep on the train ride home from Critter City.
  • Grandfather Clause: Little Critter's mom, and many other adult females, are almost always seen wearing old-fashioned dresses and hats that were commonly in fashion back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • Guilt-Induced Nightmare: In "The Bear who Wouldn't Share" sees the bear confronted by his conscience when he lets in a group of other cold, hungry creatures but claims (falsely) that he has no food. She sarcastically wishes him sweet dreams when he resists. Understandably, he instead dreams about the hungry creatures. When he wakes up, he lets them eat the food he's stored up.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Little Critter was once seen half dressed in the book "When I get Bigger" while little critter did wear overalls to school in one page. In most of the pages he is seen wearing a green and white striped shirt while he didn't wear pants throughout the day showing his furry bottom even walking around town, riding a bike wearing boots and roller-skates. Later on, in the book "The New Potty", Little Critter's sister is seen without her diaper and also overalls on the floor while using the toilet. Also in the Lift-a-Flap Books "Little Critter Hansel & Gretel", "Little Critter's Jack and the Beanstalk" Little Critter is seen half-dressed wearing his shirt but no pants.
  • Hidden Depths: After wanting to tag along throughout Just Too Little, Little Sister ends up playing baseball against Little Critter's team and ends up hitting a home run much to everyone's surprise!
  • Hot Skitty-on-Wailord Action: One character in Just a Little Different has a turtle father and rabbit mother.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Most of the books are titled "Just __________", with a few execptions.
  • Insomnia Episode: Goodnight, Little Critter has Little Sister not being able to sleep and waking up Little Critter about it. Hilarity Ensues as Little Critter tries to get her to go to sleep and succeeds...only to be unable to get to sleep himself!
  • Jerkass: Little Critter's bear friend in Just My Friend and Me, who strands Little Critter in his treehouse by taking away the ladder, runs one of his remote-controlled cars into a creek, hogs the bat while playing baseball, and reads comic books instead of helping Little Critter clean up.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: Zack, the hybrid boy from Just A Little Different, is the son of a rabbit mother and a turtle father, making him look like a rabbit with a turtle shell on his back.
  • The Moving Experience: This is used in We are Moving. Little Critter and Little Sister are both very upset, but it turns out that they're just moving a short distance away, to a home nearby their elementary school. This is one of the few that actually tries to hide that the move isn't a big deal.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Zigzagged with Little Sister. When she first appeared in the 1980 book The New Baby, she's a baby just home from the hospital. Later books have her age up enough that she's walking around on two feet, talking and either joining Little Critter on adventures or being featured in her own stories.
  • Playful Otter: LC and the Critter Kids introduced a surfing otter named Slick Rick. Otters sometimes show up as background characters in the main series as well.
  • Potty Failure: Little Sister had two in the book The New Potty. The first time failing to go to the potty at all and getting the sand in the sandbox wet, and the second time missing the potty and getting the floor wet instead.
  • The Runaway: Little Critter attempted this in I Was So Mad. He is interrupted by his friends going to play baseball and invite him to join them.
  • Spin-Off: LC and the Critter Kids. These books added a ton of new characters and attempted to target a slightly older audience (one book has LC and the gang facing a cursed mummy in a museum, for example). While this series is largely forgotten, some of the characters have been assimilated into the main Little Critter series.
    • Mayer also did a horror spin-off called Critters of the Night.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: Many of the LC and the Critter Kids stories were basically this, but Little Shop of Magic features a subversion. The gang encounters a magician who is using living gargoyles to commit robberies, and at the end of the book the police declare the case closed after arresting two crooks in costumes. But the magician himself disappears, and the robberies keep happening, meaning that the magic was Real After All.
  • Sweet Tooth: Both Little Critter and Little Sister have one, shown in a number of books enjoying ice cream and other treats. Little Critter is even shown in When I Get Bigger coming back from a corner store with plenty of lollipops, bubble gum and other candies. Justified as both characters are children.
  • Tagalong Kid: Little Sister is this to Little Critter sometimes, notably in the book Just Too Little where she wants to join Little Critter and his friends in their fun.
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Little Critter wears his overalls and Little Sister wears a bow, has longer hair, and or a dress (in later books, mostly).
  • Toilet Training Plot: "The New Potty" is about Little Sister being potty trained.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Little Critter's narration often doesn't quite match what's going on in the illustration. The most blatant example would have to be in Just Me and My Babysitter, where Little Critter and his sister are under care by whom turns out to be a Badly Battered Babysitter by the end; half the time, the narration doesn't match what's happening in the illustrations, with hilarious results.
  • Wardrobe Malfunction: In the book Just Grandma and Me, one page shows Little Critter while wearing his swimming trunk blowing up his seahorse with air and as a result his swimming trunk falls down exposing his furry bottom and showing him undressed. In The Living books 1992 PC point and click game Just Grandma and Me, takes it a step further and shows Little Critter getting embarrassed having his swimming trunks fall down and pulling them up twice.
  • World of Funny Animals: Little Critter and his family are Cartoon Creature critters, all other characters are anthropomorphic animals of some sort. The one exception is his friend Gabby who appears in some of the First Readers series of books and appears to be a critter also.