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.
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.
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.