In Mouseton Abbey, we meet the Mouseton family and their staff, who inhabit the many rooms of the manor. Every Cheesemas, the Mouseton family throw a banquet, where each mouse gets a chance to hold the Great Big Cheesy Diamond and make a wish! Everyone is preparing for this year’s party when Lord Mouseton, a very forgetful mouse, loses the precious diamond! Drama unfolds as the mice join forces to find the diamond before Cheesemas dinner is served.
(Sandra Bullock pictued above with a copy of Mouseton Abbey)
Please can you tell us about your inspiration behind the story when you first went to Paris?
I was visiting the Maison & Object fair, in Paris, when I came across an amazing display of soft toys, sitting down to dinner at a banquet table. I had been a Downton fan for a while and I knew what a buzz there was surrounding the show in the States so the idea just clicked! It took a while to convince myself, and others, that I hadn’t lost the plot completely, but when I returned home, plans to create Mouseton Abbey began. We tried out several different ways of creating characters in a variety of settings but in the end, nothing could beat the charm of mice, which were hand-knitted by an army of local mums, who seemed just as excited about the project as I was! Set against Tim Hutchinson’s beautiful illustrations, I knew we were on to something special.
How can parents enjoy the book?
The book is beautiful and will appeal to those of us who like the finer things in life! It’s a very witty story – there are plenty of jokes in there for the parents! Plus, who can resist a bit of cheesy literature?
Please tell us about the process of organising the photographs and illustrations for the text.
Having concepted how Mouseton would work, we asked Nick Page, to help us craft the perfect Mouse and he brought his own quirky sense of humour to the tail – pun intended! Once the story was in place and we knew which rooms were featured, we could commission the illustrations. Luckily, Tim Hutchinson is a fan of the Edwardian era and was well aware of how the house should look. He read the story and let his imagination run wild – we especially love the detail he put into all of the portraits!
For the photography, storyboards were drawn out so we knew exactly what positions and angles were needed for each character. We then had to stuff the mice with wire skeletons so they would stay in place. It took a day of shooting and a team of three people to make sure every mouse was shot in its various poses.
Why is it important for children to have a Cheesemas read?
So often, the focus at Christmas can be on the latest video game or DVD, but nothing can beat a good book because reading together brings people closer! Books have more longevity: they don’t date in the same way that the latest toy will.
What did you like to read at Cheesemas when you were young?
‘Twas the Night before Cheesemas… I mean Christmas! Oops!
We had the Clangers, the Rescuers and now Mouseton, so why are mice so appealing for a children’s tale?
If you think back to childhood nursery rhymes, like Three Blind Mice or Hickory Dickory Dock, mice have been the subject of children’s stories long before the Clangers. I think there is something fascinating about mice because they are so secretive! They hide away in nooks and crannies and it’s fun to imagine what their tiny homes are like. They are also extremely cute, which of course appeals to young children!
What is next for you both?
We have a couple of new books coming out in the Mouseton series: a sticker activity book and a lift-the-flap book. We are hard at work ensuring that the excitement built by Mouseton Abbey continues to grow!
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