Friday 6 December 2013

Mouse Mansion by Karina Schaapman

OMG! I'm in love!
The serious this-is-just-too-cute mousey kind of love.

Mouse Mansion: Sam & Julia is the creation (and dare I say obsession) of Karina Schaapman. She has built an entire world for Julia & Sam within the confines of cardboard boxes & papier maché.

Over 100 rooms exist in this extraordinary ecosystem.

Each room is meticulously decorated with vintage fabrics & waste materials.

The attention to detail is breath-taking and at times almost overwhelming.

We see Julia covered in chicken pox, soap suds in the bath, labels on grocery items, Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl on the bedside table & macramé pot plant holders hanging from the ceiling. There are Beatles posters on the wall, Thelonious Monk album covers on the piano, old wedding photos on bookshelves & lights and lamps of so many varieties - that can actually be lit up for the night-time sections of the story.

For those of you lucky enough to be in Amsterdam, you can see parts of the mansion on display at The Hermitage Museum.

Schaapman has written a collection of cosy, charming, endearing stories about Julia and Sam, their families and neighbours.

The book is set up like an early chapter book, but it is the photographs of the mice inside the mansion that dominate each page.

You could spend hours pouring and marvelling over the pictures.

Even my too-cool 13 year old stepson was impressed when he picked up one of the books I left lying on the lounge!

The second book came out in Australia last month - Mouse Mansion: Sam & Julia At the Theatre.

This book touches on some sadder themes - homesickness and the death of a grandparent. But we are also introduced to some of the neighbours and visit more of the rooms.

A google search of Schaapman has revealed an even more interesting & complex story though.

Schaapman, also known as Karina Content, is a Dutch writer and politician associated with the Labor party. She has written reports on the state of the education system in the Netherlands.

When rumours about her past began to surface, she decided to tackle them head on by writing her memoirs in a booked titles Motherless.

In Motherless she detailed her upbringing by her Indonesian mother & her abusive but mostly absent father.

When her mother dies of cancer, Karina finds herself, at the age of 13, neglected, living in squats, dabbling in drugs & eventually performing acts of prostitution & acting in adult movies.

This destructive way of life continued despite eventually finding a loving relationship and starting a family. 

"Now Karina must escape the nightmare that she has partly constructed for herself… Motherless is the powerful story of one woman’s path to redemption and respectability, as she seeks to reclaim the mother and the family that she has lost." (

Motherless was an instant bestseller in the Netherlands, making Schaapman's a household name.

She continued to be active in local council politics, campaigning for women & children's rights and education until 2008 when she burnt-out & left politics.

One can't help but wonder what personal demons Schaapman is trying to come to terms with in her creation of Mouse Mansion.

On the 14th of June 2008 in an interview with Carolina Lo Galbo, Galbo observed  "In this oversee-able, safe world small fabric mice live. 
"I only concentrate on the soft side of life‟, she says. 
Eli Content entered her life in the right moment, she finds. "He opened a new world to me, one of arts, literature and music. The interest was always there, but it‟s only recent that I started developing it‟. "

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