The Mouse Who Carried A House On His Back

The Mouse Who Carried A House On His Back
Jonathan Stutzman and Isabelle Arsenault
Walker Books

Vincent is a mouse ‘with boots on his feet, a hat on his head, and a house in his back.’ He also has an enormous heart and a special skill of knowing just where to stop and put down his house. Said house is no ordinary house however: it expands to accommodate whomsoever needs shelter. On this occasion he puts it down upon a hill and almost immediately along comes a weary bullfrog. Straightway Vincent offers him a roof over his head and in goes the frog, surprised that he can fit within. It’s not long before the house has expanded to welcome in also a hungry cat, a family of wet hedgehogs, a fox, badgers and a herd of deer and Vincent serves them all with dinner.

Just as they’re all seated around the table an enormous bear knocks saying he’s lost. The other animals are terrified. insisting, “there is no room for a bear.”

Vincent however thinks otherwise. “This is my house … all animals are welcome, “ he insists. And so it is on that night all the animals sleep safely and comfortably, ‘full of honeycomb and warm milk under a sky that stretched for miles.”

Jonathan Stutzman adopts a formal tone for his telling using repetition to good effect in this fable-like story of unconditional acceptance and inclusion. Isabelle Arsenault’s playful gouache, ink and cut-paper illustrations bring these themes to life: on the opening spread, she shows Vincent’s house as a simple cut-out pentagon and each time a new visitor appears at Vincent’s doorstep, a new house in a different style appears on the hillside adjacent to the pentagon, gradually creating a conglomeration of homes; then a gatefold spread captures the final proliferation.

A timely message of open hearts making for open doors in these troubled times of ours.

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