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Literature / Little Critter

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Little Critter is the title character of a children's book series created by Mercer Mayer in 1974. Its title 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. Later on, Mercer tried to make a series called LC and the Critter Kids based off an older Little Critter and meant for older children, but it ended up not being popular enough. 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.
  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling:
    • Little Sister, who is shown as whiny and gets in the way. Baby Brother downplays this, as he's 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.
  • Art Evolution: Somewhere along the way, Little Critter and family lost their slightly capybara-like faces, 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 seas monster to have a snack.
  • Beach Episode: Just Grandma and Me takes place at a beach, complete with everyone in swimwear!
  • 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?"
  • A Boy, a Girl, and a Baby Family: Played straight with Little Critter, Little Sister and Baby Brother, when he actually appears.
  • Cartoon Creature: Just what is Little Critter anyway?
  • 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.
  • 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 and Just a Rainy Day.
  • The Dentist Episode: Just Going to the Dentist focuses on Little Critter having a dentist appointment.
  • 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.
  • First Day of School Episode: "First Day of School", naturally.
  • 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".
  • Funny Animal: Entire cast.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: For a while, Little Critter wore only overalls. However in "Just For You," Little Critter was completely nude while his mother was fully clothes. 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.
  • Hot Skitty-on-Wailord Action: One character in Just a Little Different has a turtle father and rabbit mother.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Most (but not all) of the books are titled "Just __________".
  • 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.
  • Licensed Game / Edutainment Game: The franchise is fondly remembered for its Living Books releases. 11 books have been chosen to be released as interactive books for iOS devices.
  • 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.
  • No Name Given: To Little Critter or his family.
  • 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.
  • Something Completely Different: Compared to previous computer games, Little Critter and the Great Race is a point-and-click Adventure Game instead of an interactive storybook.
  • 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, the visual style looks more like that of a comic book, and the characters sometimes use words like "dude"). 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • World of Funny Animals: Little Critter and his family are Cartoon Creature critters, all other characters are anthropomorphic animals of some sort.


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