Written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc
Published by Book Island ISBN 978-0-994128201
Review by Rachel Morris rachelillustration.co.uk
SLOW DOWN! Really, slow down. That’s what Here Comes Mr Postmouse encourages.
You travel along with Mr Postmouse as he makes his deliveries but it’s the detail and humour tucked into each illustrated page that really gets you to linger. The star chart in Mr Bear’s house is, you guessed it, The Great Bear and his appropriately named Aunt Ursula are just a couple of the more highbrow jokes in only one section of the first spread. The rabbit’s toilet is a simple and effective bit of comedy and Señor Snake who lives next door is a lovely link over 4 pages, again packed with detail and subplot in the cutaways and backgrounds.
I caught up with Illustrator/Author Marianne Dubuc, who lives and works in Montréal, Québec, to ask her a few questions about this, her most recent book.
This may be a bit of a ‘the-chicken-or-the-egg’ question, but how did Mr Postmouse arrive in your head? Did he grow from a drawing, or was he born out of the word element of the story?
The idea for Mr Postmouse came as a collaboration with my then editor at Casterman, Mélanie. She wanted to make a Richard Scarry kind of book, with animal houses with lots of details. We were looking for an idea that would link all the houses together, to have a small storyline that would take you through the book from start to finish. The postman idea came naturally to both of us, and a small animal such as a mouse was perfect. And then I drew him and… that was how Mr Postmouse was born!
Was it one of those projects that flowed from the initial idea to the final, printed book, or has it been a more fraught, long-winded process than that?
The actual idea flowed naturally. Once I have an idea for a book, writing the story and drawing the layout goes relatively fast. It is the technique that took more time to find. There was a misunderstanding between Mélanie and me, and I had not understood that she was looking for a different look to my usual style. There were a lot of back and forth email exchanges with her team, and we finally settled on Mr Postmouse’s look. I drew the whole book by hand, then digitally coloured the images. It took as long as hand drawing, was really painful to do, and I actually hated doing it (!). But once the book was done, and once I received it printed, I was really satisfied. So satisfied that I wanted to do a second Mr Postmouse!
I love the way you can see the pencil marks in elements of your drawing. Could you tell me a bit about how you start an image, a bit about your working process?
I always plan my books with small thumbnails. I draw the story from start to finish very quickly in small double-page rectangles, just as a storyboard. This allows me to feel the rhythm of the book, to make sure there is a diversity of images and that it all works together. Once the the whole book’s layout is planed, I can start the final roughs. I often make a real print size blank dummy of the book, and draw directly in it, with all the details and placing the text as well. Once these roughs are approved, I can start the final illustrations. I usually use my roughs as a guide, placing them under my paper on the light table. This gives me a security to draw, but also leaves me space to improvise.
And as I said previously, contrary to all of my other books which are done by hand completely, Mr Postmouse was hand drawn, but digitally coloured. I wanted to keep the hand feeling in the images, so I did all of the textures by hand and changed the colours on the computer. I found a way to use the computer that would be satisfying to me, and I am now having fun with this style.
Here Comes Mr Postmouse is a gentle book that’s lovely to share, particularly with children who aren’t yet reading independently. With so much to talk about alongside the story in the detailed illustrations, the sparse text doesn’t make this is a ‘quick read’. It does mean it’s not daunting for someone who is learning to read though because the words are so well chosen and, on the whole, simple. It’s a beautiful book that’s full of surprises.
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