Rozhovor s Karinou Schaapman
To what extent are stories/books important in a child’s life? Which authors do you (or your children) prefer?
Books are very important for a child’s development! By reading books, they will learn new perspectives and learn about other ways of life. It is also very important for their vocabulary. We are very font of Ronald Dahl and Dutch writer Annie MG Smid.
In your opinion, do children read enough these days? Do parents spend enough time with their children?
Children still love to read. Nothing beats a beautifully printed book. Reading with children takes a lot of time, so I understand that parents sometime prefer to put their child in front of a screen. But even 10 minutes of reading per day can make all the difference in the development of a child. I highly recommend it.
How does a printed book stack up against modern technology these days?
Printed books ask more of the imagination of children than TV of App’s. It requires some effort, but it will give your child so much in return. Who doesn’t remember their favourite children’s book and the way it made you feel? Books make lasting impressions that are very valuable.
Do you/did you read with your children? What place does literature hold in your family?
My children grew up next to Amsterdam’s Central Library. They knew the library inside out. Since I did not own books growing up, I tried to raise my kids with all the literature they could wish for. We are now a family business and write and build the stories together. I like to think that this is the result of our focus on literature in their childhood. Coincidentally, the Mouse Mansion is now on display in Amsterdam’s Public Library, so we still go there quite often.
When did you start recording stories? What was the first impulse?
I wrote books for adults before, but have long wished to write a children’s book series. In 2007 I finally found the time to do so.
You dedicated the story (along with the house) to your four children. How old are they and what was their reaction to the dedication? Did they take part in the creation of the book or the house?
I actually have four children. (There were two daughters-in-law included in the dedication). They are now 32, 31, 29 and 26. Since two years we are a family business working on the books together! My oldest son, who finished art academy, works with me on the decors. My second son Ian works on the business and financial side, daughter Manita writes stories and does product development and the youngest, Lili, manages the Mouse Mansion shop & studio in Amsterdam.
The protagonists of your stories are two mice. They are said to be a reference to a book you read as a child. Is this true? What was the book about? Do you identify more with Julia or Sam? Why?
When I grew up I owned only one book about a mouse family. It had beautiful drawings and I read it over and over. This book inspired me to build the Mouse Mansion. The character Julia is inspired on my own personality. So I certainly identify with her. Sam is her opposite.
It is interesting that you came up with your mouse stories at the time when you were creating the big paper house, which has got as much attention from the readers as your book. It’s a very remarkable and minute work. Have you always been very creative? Is it a kind of relaxation for you?
Yes, I have always been creative. I love to paint, draw, sculpt and work with different materials. Making the Mouse Mansion was a very goals oriented project: I wanted it to be the decors for my children’s books. I wouldn’t describe the process as ‘relaxing’. It took years of very dedicated work and lots of effort.
You are going to present your work for children at the festival Děti, čtete? in Prague this June. Is it going to be your first time in this city? Do you celebrate the international children’s day in any way?
I have never been in Prague before. The international children’s day is not a very known day in The Netherlands. We don’t have a specific celebration or tradition for it. I am very excited to learn how it is celebrated in Prague.
What are you most looking forward to about your stay in Prague? Do you have any connection with the city? Are you coming on your own or with family?
It is very excited for me to see Prague. I specifically love the marionette-culture of the Czech Repblic. I make them myself so I look forward to visit some shops in Prague. It is the first time that I am travelling together with my daughter to promote our new book.
Are you going to publish another book, for children or adults? If yes, can you tell us what it will be?
Next year, we will publish The Mouse Mansion – At the Harbour. We are also planning a Christmas book and in the future we would like to make a coffee-table book for adults as well. So there is much to keep us busy!