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Author: Ross Collins

There’s a Mouse in My House: Why I done it.

Today’s guest post is by author-illustrator Ross Collins, on the origins of his brand new picture book, There’s a Mouse in My House, the long-awaited sequel to the award-winning There’s a Bear on My Chair.

It’s been five years since my book There’s a Bear on My Chair was published. It feels like ten. It feels longer because I think I’ve read this book, performed it to audiences, more times and in more places than anything else I’ve ever written.

People like it and buy it and say very nice things to me about it. I had a letter from a wee girl called Nina from Sammamish about it yesterday. Where’s Sammamish? I have no idea.

Approximately half of the people who talked to me about it asked me the same question: “When’s There’s a Mouse in My House coming out?” They never asked me what the sequel would be called – they just told me what it would be called. Eventually I figured that if I ever did do a sequel it would be churlish to call it anything else.

But I wasn’t that keen to do a sequel. For two reasons.

Firstly because a lot of sequels of successful books are rushed out. They tend to have that ‘second album’ cash-in syndrome where they are never as good as the first and are quickly forgotten. They can even tarnish the original if you’re not careful.

It would take time to come up with something worthy of following Bear.

Secondly because ‘Bear’ turned out to be an amazing single rhyme. Meanwhile ‘Mouse’ ain’t so good. Think about it. Douse. Grouse. House. Louse. Nous. Spouse. There are only so many scenarios I can think of that involve a mouse and a grouse.

So I sat on it, did other things, but eventually after being asked by a particularly persistent little red headed girl on Guernsey when There’s a Mouse in My House was coming out, I decided to have a go at it.

I discarded ‘mouse’ as a rhyme and instead considered ‘go’, as in, ‘he has to go’..

How he got in I’d like to know

He’s unpacked all his stuff just so.

That rodent can’t live here, oh no!

I’ll tell him that he has to go.

That works.

All of a sudden I got to play with images of taekwondo, Andy Warhol mice, big banana boots and air-guitaring to soft rock. Who knew?

But the main joy of doing There’s a Mouse in My House was in swapping the dynamic of the characters. In the first book Bear is in control and Mouse is the one who is slowly losing his mind. Wouldn’t it be fun to see the tables turned?

A great deal of the joy of illustrating animals is to instil human emotions in them through their body language and micro expressions. I really enjoyed turning the smug bear into a beleaguered grouch and the angry mouse into a devil-may care unwanted guest.

As I worked it seemed to make more sense. Doing this book balances the scales. The mouse’s revenge for all he went through in the first book. It seemed right. They sit well together.

And the ending? Well hopefully it draws a nice line under the power struggle of this unhappy pair.

There definitely won’t be a third one.

Definitely not.

And if you do see a book in the shops in 2025 about a mouse and a bear shooting grouses with their spouses then please address complaints to my publishers.

Thank you, Ross! There’s a Mouse in My House is out now – you can take a look inside the book below, and buy it online from Waterstones here, from Bookshop.org here, and from Amazon here.

Ross Collins on the importance of libraries and the accidental message behind There’s a Bear on My Chair

Today’s guest post is by Ross Collins, author-illustrator of There’s a Bear on My Chair – the recent recipient of the inaugural Amnesty CILIP Greenaway Honour.

A lot of of children’s books tend to have ‘messages’.

Most of the time I doubt decent authors go out of their way to put messages into books – they just naturally end up in there. I try to avoid it if I can. I never liked stories where you thought you were reading a fun adventure and then suddenly realised that you were being preached to. But, often as not, a little lesson will appear in your story whether or not you intended it to.

There’s a Bear on My Chair began life as a fun little story about a smug polar bear and an angry little mouse who really, really wanted his chair back. It was about gags, visual humour, word play and maybe a little about a child trying to get their parent’s attention in this era of smart phone mums and dads.

As the book developed I realised that there actually was a ‘message’ hidden in there. The message seemed to be – you take away the power of a bully by showing them that you don’t care about how they are treating you. It seemed like a nice little message and one that I could certainly have used at an early point in my childhood.

I found that when I visited schools and libraries to talk to children about the book that they really latched onto this little ‘message’. At the age of 4-6 most had already experienced dealing with a sibling or classmate who had taken something of theirs for ‘fun’ and they all had something to say about how to deal with that scenario.

The clever kids talked about their version of ‘peaceful protest’. The worrying kids that you secretly adore talked about flame throwers.

Most importantly to me, most of the kids wanted to talk more about the scene where the mouse is wearing underpants..

When I heard that There’s a Bear on My Chair was on the longlist for this year’s CILIP Greenaway and Amnesty Honours my heart soared and then quickly sank like a stone. What a huge list – and packed with the names of all my heroes of the literary world. ‘It’s nice to be listed,’ I thought ‘but I won’t be getting any further than this..’

Therefore I couldn’t believe it when I found that the book had not only been shortlisted for the CILIP Greenaway but had won the inaugural CILIP Amnesty Honour.

Like all authors in this country I have strong feelings about our precious libraries and for the amazing librarians who guide our children into the world of reading.

My family used to go to Glasgow’s Govan library every Thursday evening and we would all split up to our own areas of interest. Mum to her Thrillers, Dad to his Fantasy, my sister to (I never cared where my sister went) and me to my adventure stories, horror stories, science fiction, fantasy, detective…anything I could lay my hands on. Libraries were a safe, wonderful part of my childhood – and it was all there for free. FREE! Fancy that!

When I started my career in illustration, libraries were my internet. I would ride around from library to library on my battered Honda scooter looking for reference material for each new illustration job. And while I was in there I might just happen to take 2 or 3 novels home too.

I couldn’t have got started in my career without libraries and I know that a huge number of children have found my books in their local library – guided by wonderful librarians with excellent taste.

So, for all those reasons, the CILIP Greenaway is a very special award for me. To be shortlisted again was a huge honour and I don’t take it lightly. The cherry on top is my beautiful CILIP Amnesty Honour. It’s something I never expected to come out of a book about a grumpy mouse and a smug polar bear. But there it is. A lovely honour from clever people who spotted my little ‘message’.

I just hope that the judges don’t realise that it’s really just a book about a mouse in his underpants.

Thank you, Ross! If you’ve not discovered it yet, here’s a look inside There’s a Bear on My Chair:

Buy the book.

You can also buy beautiful, limited edition, signed and numbered giclee prints featuring artwork from There’s a Bear on My Chair exclusively from the Nosy Crow shop – here’s a look at the prints on offer:

There's a Bear on my Chair | Ross Collins

Buy this print.

There's a Bear on my Chair | Ross Collins

Buy this print.

There's a Bear on my Chair | Ross Collins

Buy this print.

There's a Bear on my Chair | Ross Collins

Buy this print.