Welcome once again to Debatables, the monthly column where esoteric kid-lit questions are argued with way too much passion. (Last month, I was unable to fulfill my Debatables duties, so I’d like to thank my debate substitute, the great and wonderful Jilanne Hoffmann, who won the battle hands down.)
My Debatables sparring opponent is, as usual, my colleague, friend, and collegial frenemy, Cricket Muse.
Here are the Debatables ground rules:
Each debater is allowed one brief argument (fewer than 300 words) on a previously agreed-upon topic. These brief arguments will then be followed by a briefer rebuttal (fewer than 150 words).
To celebrate my upcoming picture book, Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist (Preorder it now!), Cricket and I have decided on a mousey topic:
Who Is The Most Appealing Mouse In Middle Grade Fiction?
I chose the inimitable Amos from Ben and Me.
So! Let’s get started.
Mike: American history wouldn’t have been the same without Amos. The eldest of 25 siblings, Amos demonstrates his admirable character traits from the outset by selflessly volunteering to leave the comforts of home to provide for his hungry family. He soon meets Benjamin Franklin (by way of Benjamin Franklin’s comfortable fur hat) and demonstrates his worth almost immediately by inventing the Franklin stove.
Franklin is, of course, dazzled and negotiates a contractually bound creative partnership that promises a bountiful, lifetime supply of cheese, wheat, and rye for Amos’s family.
As for Amos’s end of the bargain, the mouse agreed to impart a lifetime’s worth of wisdom. Declaration of Independence? Amos suggested most of it. Electricity? Amos endured a series of cruel and unusual electrical experiments.
And—according to the Disney cartoon—Amos also invented bifocals.
Amos never failed to help out a fellow mouse. Toward the end of the book, when Franklin was wasting time canoodling with some French hotties, Amos led a palace attack to rescue the imprisoned children of a white mouse named Sophia. (Amos’s actions, by the way, were not born out of amorous desire, for he also reunited Sophia with her lawfully wedded husband.)
Time and time again Amos proved himself to be kind, creative, brave, inventive, patriotic, altruistic, and fiercely devoted to both man and mice.
I cannot even begin to imagine a personality that could be more appealing.
Cricket Muse: Mike, for a writer guy of great imagination, how did you manage to overlook Reepicheep? “Here then is a mouse, when can there be such another?” I throw that paraphrased quote in there because Reepicheep is an incredibly appealing mouse. No mouse can be more appealing than this gentle warrior. Take a look at his vitae:
- Chief Talking Mouse of Narnia
- Concerned with honor
- Descendent of the mice who freed Aslan from the Stone Table
- Fights willingly for friends and good causes
- Veteran of glorious battles
- Tamer of dragons
- Well-read, has a home library
- Excellent sword skills
- Fearless–sought to fulfill the prophecy to find the “utter East,” Aslan’s country
- Adventurer–sailed with Prince Caspian.
- Made a knight of the Most Noble Order of the Lion
- Skilled chess player
- Befriends the unloved and miserable, as in boys turned into dragons
This is a Renaissance mouse. He is well-spoken, elegant of manner, knowledgeable, respected by kings and queens, a skilled fighter, and is so revered that the other mice were willing to lop off their own tails when Reep lost his in battle. Aslan recognizing the fierce devotion of Reepicheep’s followers, restored his tail. It is no stretch to say that Reepicheep is one of Narnia’s most memorable AND appealing characters. He is a mouse among mice.
One of Reepicheep’s endearing qualities is his ability to set aside his pride and accept a hug.
Mike’s Rebuttal: You are being disingenuous, Cricket. Amos is not “hiding behind anyone’s name.” He is just a humble mouse with humble needs. He has no lust for fame or fortune. And he certainly isn’t vain enough to pester a Jesus figure for a replacement tail.
As for bravery, Amos is every bit as heroic as your candidate, perhaps more so. After all, Reepicheep is two feet tall (!), is always wielding a sword, and leads a standing army; Amos is just a little mouse with a big heart.
And let’s not forget that Amos is a fine writer, contributing to the historical record by penning his memoirs on eensy teensy scraps of paper. A mouse of letters is a very appealing thing indeed!
In my opinion, there are no bad rodents. Reepicheep is certainly worthy of great respect and hugs. But Amos is the more appealing.
Cricket’s Rebuttal: Mike, there is one glaring fault to your argument. If Amos is so great, then why was he only known to Ben? Humility plays no part in this. Amos never spoke with any other human in his time with Mr. Franklin. This gives ponderment as to whether Amos is merely a figment of Ben’s ample imagination. On the other hand, Reepicheep, warrior, true, but one with a gentle heart, was known to all, and left a deep impression upon all who encountered him. Honored by Aslan, befriended by a dragon, knighted by a king, and loved by MILLIONS of readers, Reepicheep is a mouse of the MOST appealing nature. As for the tail comment, tsk, Mike. You might have alienated loyal Narnia followers with that one. As I recall your Amos did his share of fighting–ruined a good party, and Ben’s popularity with the French. Some nice mouse.
And that’s the debate—which is a shame since Cricket’s rebuttal NEEDS a factual response. But, hey, that’s what the comments are for!
So! Who won the debate? Do you have an appealing mouse candidate who wasn’t mentioned here? Leave a comment! We wanna hear from you!