Karina Schaapman (text) and Tom Bouwer (photography), Sam and Julia: The Mouse Mansion, Allen & Unwin, December 2019, 60 pp., RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781760876760
Sam and Julia: The Mouse Mansion is a delightful gem of a book; a visual treat for young and old and a precious collection of short stories set in this magical world. Sam and Julia live in a big old Mouse Mansion, a wonderful place full of nooks and crannies; so many places for adventures! Julia is an adventurous little mouse, always on the hunt for something fun to do. Sam is her best friend, a shy and quiet little mouse, but always swept up by Julia’s zest for life. Even if he’s not so sure it’s a good idea.
The Mansion has six floors, and so many places for two little mice to let their imaginations run wild. There are often chores to do as well. See, Sam is from a large family, unlike Julia, and this means she often finds herself being part of Sam’s family. Author and creator Schaapman, a Dutch politician and parent, was inspired to create a story which reflected the idea of sharing in a neighbourhood and community; cooking, stories, family. This is evident in little vignettes like ‘Uncle John Can Do Anything’ and ‘Shabbat.’
This book consists of 17 Chapters, with each being a little vignette in its own right. They can be read consecutively or as little micro-stories. One night, after my son had fallen asleep listening, I found myself sitting on his bed, devouring the rest of the book alone, falling more and more in love with each page. Visually, The Mouse Mansion is a sublime treat, with author Karina Schaapman being the creator of this little world; a carboard box and papier-mâché masterpiece, replete with vintage fabrics and authentic textures. There are over 100 little rooms, as well as outdoor areas, shops and many, many stairs. It all just adds to the layered and lush little world of Sam and Julia: The Mouse Mansion.
Reviewed by Belinda Raposo