Here Comes Mr Postmouse and Postmouse Goes on Holiday are charming creations from French-Canadian Marianne Dubuc, translated by Greet Pauwelijn. Book Island were based on the Kapiti Coast, but are now based in Brighton, UK.
In Here Comes Mr Postmouse, no job is too big for Mr Postmouse, as he travels to all the unique homes of his friends over his day’s work, dropping habitat-appropriate parcels to each.
Dubuc has a fabulous imagination, inventing ways by which a crocodile family would ensure a house was humid enough for them (fill the bottom with warm water), giving Mr Snake an ultra-long house with heat-lamps, and sending Mr Postmouse to a sausage lunch with his friend Mr Dragon, wearing a flameproof suit (not sure how he plans to eat those sausages through his flameproof mask, though)!
She cleverly uses traditional European fairy-tales to base her spreads on: we find Goldilocks having porridge with a bear; there’s a wobbly bridge on the way to the Goats’ mountain home; Little Red Riding Hood features on the front cover. This carries on into the second book, which features Hansel and Gretel in one spread, heading to the gingerbread house. It’s enjoyable for children and adults alike to make this link with traditional stories they are already aware of.
The detailed illustrations also have ‘easter eggs’ in them – items that recur on each page, à la Where’s Wally?. And they are filled with little giggles: a turtle receives some roller skates to make herself a mobile home; Baby Rabbit is going potty, with a little pile of pellets forming in the hole below. One snort-worthy scene shows Mr Wolf getting ready for his lamb dinner, while the three little pigs are busting the sheep out of a hole in the side of the house.
It’s occasionally hard to get past the charming, generous illustrations to find the text, though. While the images tell the full story in the case of the first book, the small words just don’t stand out well enough on the pages. The typography doesn’t seem well thought-out.
There is plenty here, though, for a young child to exclaim over, and while you’re having fun you can explore the environments that different animals like to live in.
Mr Postmouse goes on Holiday is a follow-up to Here Comes Mr Postmouse, and the whole family gets involved this time. It reminds me of Richard Scarry’s classic Cars and Trucks and Things that Go. The family goes on holiday and visits wild and wonderful settings, from the beach, to a cruise ship, to a tropical island, to the ice caps.
Throughout their holiday, the Postmouse family drop off parcels to friends and family. One joy for detail-spotters here is noticing which item gets dropped off where. Frequently there is no indication of whom a parcel is intended for, so you have to keep your eyes peeled to figure out which page it disappears from the mail-cart on. Mr Postmouse is such a dedicated postie!
The use of more than one character to drop parcels actually makes things a little confusing visually – while the first story was so straightforward that we could follow it by illustrations alone, this isn’t the case here. There is a bit more work for the reader to do, and a bit more engagement to win from the children reading. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does change the target age range a little.
My boys enjoyed these books for a personal connection: their dad is a postie, so they could imagine him dropping off sugar to some ants, a spade to a mole, and perfume to skunks, as he meets each of them in his everyday life.
Both of these books are a fun and engaging addition to any young person’s collection, and a definite gateway collection to the Richard Scarry books for preschoolers. And as always with the now-UK-based Book Island’s books, they are a joy to hold and leaf through, with great paper stock and hard covers. I am very pleased to hear from the publisher that there is a third to come in the series later this year.
Here Comes Mr Postmouse
By Marianne Dubuc
Published by Book Island
Mr Postmouse goes on holiday
By Marianne Dubuc
Published by Book Island
Sarah Forster has worked in the New Zealand book industry for 15 years, in roles promoting Aotearoa’s best authors and books. She has a Diploma in Publishing from Whitireia Polytechnic, and a BA (Hons) in History and Philosophy from the University of Otago. She was born in Winton, grew up in Westport, and lives in Wellington. She was a judge of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults in 2017. Her day job is as a Senior Communications Advisor—Content for Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.