Sam and Julia are two little grey mice who are best friends, much like Jip and Janneke of the famous Annie M.G. Schmidt stories, and they live in separate apartments in a glorious jumble of floors and rooms in a mouse mansion community with stairs running up and down, and chambers full of intricate, hand-made furniture and tiny dollhouse accessories. While Jip and Janneke are feisty and mischievous, Sam and Julia are gentler although no less inquisitive, up for adventure and certainly no less Dutch, although their world is a city world based on life in Amsterdam while Jip and Janneke’s is set in quaint villages surrounded by flowers and fields.
In 17 stories perfect for read alouds and sharing, Sam and Julia engage in the daily routines and small discoveries that children everywhere have in their lives. The book begins with the mice children finding a secret hiding place under a staircase, a space just big enough for the two of them. What kinds of treasures will they keep there? The following vignettes hint that Sam and Julia will find something new to put in their treasure box, which already has their favorite secret things inside: “strands of string, old coins, favorite buttons and lot of other special bits and pieces.” Every child would want to talk about what their secret treasures are.
The children get the community’s recycling together for the Ragman’s visit, a local man who buys scrap materials which is a particularly old world, European moment. By helping, Sam and Julia get twenty-five cents to share. They immediately put the money in their secret treasure box and go off to make pancakes with Sam’s grandma. In the kitchen, there are tiny dishes in a tiny dish rack, a basket of rolls, a wooden table with carved legs, a warm feast for curious eyes. There is a musician playing a violin rather badly, and this room’s double-page spread is full of tiny album covers scattered on the floor with a turntable cued up, an upright piano covered in sheet music, a saxophone on a stand and a trumpet hanging from the ceiling, the rough walls of the mansion clearly visible. In Sam’s much larger apartment, he introduces Julia to his new baby siblings, triplets!, and there are three tiny baby cradles lined up in a row in the parents’ bedroom, while on the coffee table in the adjoining living room there is a chess set, tea service and comfortable armchairs.
There is an intimate, timeless quality in both the images and stories, “The lived-in space—no fancy upper-class dollhouse—recalls Dickens’s London or, given Schaapman’s home city, Rembrandt’s Amsterdam. The mice lead humble, contented lives, and their mansion is sure to astonish.”
The engaging endpapers for The Mouse Mansion where busy mice look for books in the library, water their plants, do laundry, have tea, and by looking closely, have a pillow fight.
There are many more books in the series that need to be translated into English, and new books are being planned for every two years as soon as author/mansion builder Schaapman and her team of grown children, now Studio Schaapman co-workers, can get the sets built for each adventure! We can only hope that all the foreign rights to all the Mouse Mansion books as described by Rubenstein publishers here are sold so that we can meet all of Sam and Julia’s friends and family members who live in a theater, or at the circus, the fun fair, and the harbor, all based on the sights, sounds, and atmosphere of Amsterdam.
Magical reading and exploration for children ages 4 – 8 and adults who love whimsical stories, dollhouses, and arts and crafts. There is a treasure box full of inspiration for Makers everywhere and for all ages!
The Mouse Mansion
Written by Karina Schaapman
Photographed by Ton Bouwer
Originally published as Het Muizenhuis – Sam en Julia by Rubenstein, 2011
Published by Dial Books, 2014
You can buy Mouse Mansion here.
“In 17 episodes, two winsome, knitted mice—best friends Sam and Julia—explore the thriving, multistory apartment community where they both live…Schaapman’s ingenious miniature interiors are certain to captivate all ages.”
— Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Dollhouse aficionados will be thunderstruck by Schaapman’s engrossing debut…The mice lead humble, contented lives, and their mansion is sure to astonish.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review
2012 Zilveren Penseel
2015 Gouden Boek
Interview in English with author Karina Schaapman, “Amsterdam with a Local: Karina Schaapman,” begins with the question, “How does one get from a career in politics to working full time on a Mouse Mansion?“
Read Rubenstein Publishers’ The Mouse Mansion Foreign Rights Catalog for a complete overview of the books Schaapman has written to date starring Sam and Julia.
Visit The Mouse Mansion website or plan a trip to Amsterdam to visit their corner shop where more adventures and crafts await fans. You can take a tour of the shop here.
Studio Schaapman has created a full YouTube channel of tutorials for creating you own Mouse Mansion and mice.
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