Little Critter by author Mercer Mayer

Following the Adventures of a Lovable Little Guy: A Review of the “Little Critter” Book Series


The “Little Critter” book series by author and illustrator Mercer Mayer is a beloved collection of children’s stories following the daily life and gentle adventures of a little anthropomorphic creature named Little Critter. With over 200 books published since the 1970s, Little Critter’s tales are familiar favorites for generations of kids. If you’re looking for a fun, engaging early reader series for your children or want to revisit some classic stories from your own childhood, Little Critter is a great choice.

Little Critter by Mercer Mayer

You can find Little Critter by author Mercer Mayer on your favorite bookstore, including and Amazon UK.

About author Mercer Mayer

Author Mercer Mayer

Mercer Mayer is one of the most beloved children’s book authors and illustrators of the past 50 years. With over 300 books published and over 75 million copies sold worldwide, Mayer has captured the hearts and imaginations of several generations of young readers.

Best known for his Little Critter series, Mayer brings warmth, humor, and relatability to all his stories. Little Critter, an enthusiastic little boy exploring the world around him, deals with universal childhood themes like trying new things, making mistakes, sibling rivalry, and family bonding. The minimalist illustrations and simple yet expressive dialogue make his books accessible and appealing even to very young children.

Beyond Little Critter, Mayer has created several other iconic characters like Little Monster and Critter Kids. He continues to add new installments to popular series as recently as 2021. Whether about science experiments, messy rooms, new siblings, or funny grandparents, Mayer’s works feel like a comforting chat with a caring friend.

In addition to writing and illustrating over 300 titles himself, Mayer has collaborated with other children’s book talents like Eric Hill (Spot the Dog) and David Shannon (No, David!). He also illustrated the 1977 to 1991 Boyds Mills Press series The Little Books, adapted from Helen L. Wilbur’s books for early readers.

Among his numerous awards, Mayer has received the Children’s Choice Book Award, the Children’s Book Council Children’s Choice Award, and the Library of Congress Children’s Book Award. Many of his books, like Just Me and My Little Brother, are commonly used in schools and libraries worldwide for early reading programs. Little Critter even had his own computer game and personalized books series in the 1990s.

Now in his mid-70s, Mercer Mayer continues to captivate young imaginations. His delightful stories address childhood joys and challenges in a warm, whimsical, and tender manner. Short sentences, easy vocabulary, and engaging illustrations make his hundreds of books perfect for beginning readers. For over 50 years, Mercer Mayer has cemented his legacy as one of the most prominent and successful names in children’s literature.

An Endearing Main Character That’s Easy to Relate To

One of the big appeals of the Little Critter stories is the main character himself. As his descriptive name suggests, Little Critter is a small, furry creature with simple features—just a round head, eyes, mouth, and tufted tail. His ambiguous creature type allows him to be universally relatable. While his basic shape remains consistent across illustrations, his facial features are highly expressive, allowing readers to easily read his emotions, from wide-eyed excitement to frustrated frowns.

Little Critter’s personality and behaviors also feel familiar. Many stories follow his everyday activities, like going to preschool, the doctor, the barbershop, on camping trips with his family, and more. Little Critter experiences common childhood moments like difficulty learning to ride a bike, impatience on long car rides, or overcoming fear of the dark. He also exhibits typical kid qualities like picky eating, difficulty cleaning his room, jealousy of a new baby sibling, and excitement about new toys and pets. This allows children to see themselves in Little Critter, empathizing with both his daily routines and emotional ups and downs.

Simple, Endearing Illustrations That Draw You In

The charm of the Little Critter series isn’t just in the writing but also Mercer Mayer’s distinctive illustrations. Whether depicting Little Critter hard at work coloring, struggling through messy eating, or celebrating a job well done, the imagery helps bring his world to life in an inviting way.

The uncomplicated line drawings have a timeless quality and warmth that feels both nostalgic for adults and engaging even to very young readers. While minimal, Little Critter’s environment contains careful detail—the toys scattered across his bedroom floor, the utensils and place settings when dining with his family. Background scenery also gestures to different locations like the countryside, beach, parks and more.

The frequent shifts in Little Critter’s endearing facial expressions are a highlight, allowing readers to visually track his shifting emotional states from page to page. The illustrations work hand-in-hand with the storytelling, letting kids follow along even before they have full reading comprehension. The pairing of simple vocabulary with expressive imagery also helps build early literacy connections between words and their meanings.

Relatable Plots That Mirror Common Childhood Experiences

The gentle drama of Little Critter plots forms another big part of the series’ appeal. Many stories explore extremely relatable childhood experiences and struggles. Little Critter deals with things like:

Learning New Skills

In “Just Me and My Little Brother,” Little Critter learns to cope with a bit of jealousy over the attention his new baby sibling receives. Other popular stories like “Just a Snowy Vacation” and “Just Grandpa and Me” follow his adventures trying new activities like skiing with his family or fishing with his grandfather.

Overcoming Small Fears and Frustrations

Universal childhood fears like monsters under the bed (“Just Me and My Little Brother”), impatience on car rides (“Just Shopping with Mom”), or even apprenticing at his father’s workplace (“Just Helping My Dad”) allow young readers to identify with Little Critter as he overcomes minor obstacles.

Everyday Activities and Special Occasions

Lots of Little Critter plots revolve around routines like going to the doctor (“Just Me and My Doctor”), getting a haircut (“Just Me and My Babysitter”), attending preschool (“Just Go to Bed”), doing homework (“Just my Friend and Me”), and more. There are also beloved stories about holidays like Halloween (“Just Tricking”) and Christmas (“Just a Little Different”). These help kids recognize the familiar patterns and meaningful rituals that define children’s lives.

Encouraging Themes That Resonate with Parents Too

Beyond relatability for young readers, the Little Critter stories often contain lessons or heartwarming elements meaningful for parents as well. Common themes celebrate:

Self-Reliance and Accomplishment

In many books Little Critter learns to cope with new environments, build confidence trying new skills, or accomplish tasks like making his bed, picking out gifts for family members, helping around the house, and more. Watching Little Critter gain competence and take pride in growing independence and self-sufficiency is extremely gratifying.

Curiosity, Creativity and Imagination

Many Little Critter plots foster and encourage the innate curiosity and creativity of young minds. Whether he’s making up stories with his toys, inventing his own recipes in the kitchen, or pretending to be wildlife on a camping trip, both text and imagery celebrate Little Critter’s imagination. This inspires readers to tap into their own make-believe too.

Family Time and Togetherness

Little Critter is often depicted embarking on new adventures and tackling new experiences surrounded by a loving family. Whether it’s parents, grandparents, siblings or friends, Little Critter’s stories highlight the warmth, support and joy generated spending quality time with loved ones as well as negotiating relationships.

Perfect Early Reading Material That Grows With Your Child

A major advantage of the vast Little Critter series is that it includes entry points suitable for every early reading level. With over 200 books in publication since the 1970s, there are simple board books and picture books perfect for babies and toddlers up to more advanced I Can Read Chapter books with several pages of text for young independent readers. This makes it possible to grow with Little Critter over the course of multiple years.

The consistency of Mercer Mayer’s illustration style and Little Critter’s character across this gradient of complexity helps ease transitions to more mature vocabulary and longer stories. The simpler books focus on bright imagery, patterns, repetition, rhyming and basic concept introduction. Slightly more complex stepping stone books mix pictures and text, building connections between the two and introducing more advanced phonics rules.

The increasing chronological story length then allows young readers to practice concentration, comprehension, and reading stamina while still accompanied by familiar illustrations and Little Critter’s recognizable voice. Being able to follow this single beloved character over the course of early reading journey helps build confidence and motivation to progress to the next level. It’s intrinsically rewarding in a way that skill-building workbooks cannot replicate.

Final Thoughts: A Must-Read Series for Parents and Budding Readers

Few early reader series achieve the iconic longevity and appeal of Little Critter. Several generations of kids have grown up poring over Mercer Mayer’s delightful illustrations and getting absorbed in the gentle drama of Little Critter’s big emotions and small adventures. As both a fond callback for adults and a perfect entry point into literacy for young children today, the Little Critter books deserve a cherished spot on every child’s bookshelf.

If you’re looking for an early reader series that expertly balances entertainment and education for emerging young minds, look no further. Give Little Critter a try—you might just make a fan for life.

Similar Series to Enjoy

If your kids end up loving Little Critter, here are eleven more delightful early reader series worth checking out next:

  1. Noddy by author Enid Blyton – This charming story follows the adventures of Noddy, a little wooden puppet who lives in his own tiny town of Toyland. With easy-to-read language and colorful illustrations, Noddy transports readers young and old into a whimsical world where toys come to life.
  2. Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel – This classic series follows the adventures and everyday life of Frog and his best friend Toad through short, sweet stories about friendship, patience, and overcoming little problems together. The appealing illustrations and gentle stories are similar in tone to Little Critter.
  3. Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish – The fun and humorous antics of literal-minded housekeeper Amelia Bedelia as she gets common idioms confused will appeal to Little Critter fans. The series celebrates imagination, language play, and features illustrations with a retro feel.
  4. Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant – A boy named Henry and his big, lovable dog Mudge share a strong bond of friendship. Their cozy adventures exploring the neighborhood, visiting new places, and comforting one another during storms have a similar warmth and care to Little Critter’s family.
  5. Frog and Friends by Eve Bunting – Through exploring the forest, meeting new animal friends, and working together to solve problems, endearing frog protagonist Frog and his companions teach valuable interpersonal lessons reminiscent of Little Critter’s growth.
  6. Clarice Bean by Lauren Child – Spunky, imaginative Clarice Bean struggles with everyday issues like standing out at school, dealing with bothersome siblings, and impatient parents. The cute, quirky illustrations and light tone mirror Little Critter.
  7. Ling and Ting by Grace Lin – Ling and Ting are silly identical twins who stick together through funny adventures that teach important themes of sharing, empathy, and responsibility. The compact storytelling and Chinese-American representation parallel Little Critter.
  8. Pinky and Rex by James Howe – Silly friends Pinky, a girl, and Rex, her talking toy dinosaur, role play imaginary games teaching cooperation and healthy relationships, much like Little Critter and his family model positive social skills. The short chapters with playful black-and-white illustrations have similar accessibility.
  9. Froggy by Jonathan London – Well-meaning but accident-prone Froggy finds himself in hilarious hijinks through stories teaching lessons related to paying attention, following rules, and being responsible. The humor and repetitious sequences are akin to Little Critter.
  10. Franklin by Paulette Bourgeois – This Canadian series about the growing pains of turtle Franklin as he learns about himself, going to school, playing with friends, and family milestones has the same gentle lessons and reassuring tone as Little Critter.
  11. Arthur by Marc Brown – Popular aardvark Arthur navigates problems at home and school, celebrating creativity, knowledge-seeking, and diversity appreciation through stories comforting in familiarity and valuable lessons like Little Critter.


Who is the Little Critter character?

The Little Critter is a beloved character created by author and illustrator Mercer Mayer. He is portrayed as a small furry creature, similar to a guinea pig or hamster, who learns various life lessons throughout the popular children’s book series. Little Critter first appeared in the 1975 book Just for You.

How many Little Critter books are there?

Mercer Mayer has written and illustrated over 200 Little Critter books since 1975. New Little Critter books continue to be published regularly by Random House with both Mayer and his son working on the illustrations. The series remains popular today with both parents and children.

What age range are the Little Critter books for?

The Little Critter books are aimed primarily at preschool to early elementary aged children, approximately ages 3 to 7. However, fans of all ages enjoy the charming stories and nostalgia of the series. The simple vocabulary and situations make them perfect beginner readers.

The gentle stories in the Little Critter series focus on common childhood themes and experiences like starting school, doctor visits, chores, siblings, imagination, and holidays. The tone is nurturing and often gently humorous. Little Critter sometimes gets into small scrapes but always learns a lesson.

Where does Little Critter live?

Though never explicitly stated, the charming pastoral setting for the Little Critter stories is implied to be a small town or suburb. Little Critter is often shown interacting with his nuclear family including his parents, little sister, and grandparents as well as neighborhood children and friends.

Does Little Critter have any pets?

Yes! Little Critter has several pets that appear regularly in the book series, including a dog named Kitty (first introduced in Just Me and My Little Sister), a cat named Fireball, and a fish named Potsie. The pets often get into funny minor misadventures of their own in the stories.

How would you describe Little Critterʼs personality?

Little Critter is best described as a kind, curious, innocent and sometimes slightly mischievous little boy. Many plots center around his imagination and new experiences. While he sometimes gets anxious about new situations like the first day of school, his big heart always shines through in the end.

How do the Little Critter books teach lessons?

Mercer Mayer intentionally built the series to teach gentle life lessons to young children through humor and empathy. Little Critter learns not to be too picky, how to better get along with his sister, why telling the truth matters, how trying new things can be fun if scary, and much more.

Why do children love the Little Critter series so much?

Children form a strong bond with the Little Critter character over the progression of the series. His worries and experiences mirror their own, allowing them to see how even challenges lead to self-growth. The books are engaging, funny, and heartwarming. Little Critter‟s loving family also appeals to a child‟s sense of security.

Is there a Little Critter app?

Yes, Oceanhouse Media has developed storybook apps that animate several Little Critter print titles for iOS and Android mobile devices. Interactive features like highlighted narration, sound effects, and word recognition games help bring Little Critter to life on screen for a new generation of young readers.

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