|By the end of last month Rahva Raamat Publishing House in Estonia published a new edition of Riikka Jäntti’s Little Mouse adventures in Estonia, VÄIKE HIIR SÕIDAB MAALE.
It received a warm welcome from Estonian readers and that sparked some interest about the work process and the characters. Fortunately, the author was so kind to explain us the inspiring process. Dea Oidekivi (Rahva Raamat): First of all, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Could you please explain to our young readers how you became an illustrator? Is it something that you always wanted to do? Did you have any influences when you were still a child?Riikka Jäntti: I have been drawing and painting since I was born. My parents put a pencil in my hand when I was a baby, and when I was a child I spent a lot of time drawing, and then when I learned to write, writing. I have always loved books, so I guess I had this secret hope to get to do something with books when I grow up.
When there was a question of what to study after school, the art school was a natural choice. I don’t know if I ever really decided to become an illustrator, it’s more like something that just happened.
DO: It’s quite common to use animals in children’s’ books. Still, not all the authors master the simple yet captivating plot interesting both for children and grown-ups. How did the idea of a little mouse come into your mind?
RJ: Little Mouse came into my mind when my own daughter was about three years old. I had done some illustrations for a book, where there had been some nice little mouse-characters. I liked drawing mouses, so I first did some small cartoons about my daughter as a mouse. Then I thought of a book. I showed the first sketches to the publisher and they loved it! My father then said that I should keep the stories as truthful as I could, and be as honest as I can. No fairy tales, there is real life, he said. I did my best.
DO: There are six books altogether, two of them published in Estonia already. Was it your original plan to create a bestselling series or is it something that just happened?
RJ: There are now six books, and number seven is in the making. My publisher was so happy with the first book, that they asked me to make another one, and then again another one, and so on. I promised them that I will try making them as long as there are good ideas to work with. My daughter is now nine years old already, so she is no longer a little mouse, but she is still a great inspiration.
DO: The characters of the mouse books are all very relatable for children. It’s very graciously done and we believe the series is very relatable for many parents as well. Some of our young readers have asked why is there only a Mommy Mouse and where is Daddy Mouse? Is the single-parent household in the book something you planned from the start?
RJ: Being a single mother myself, that was a natural choice. The stories and ideas are all from our own everyday life, and I like to keep things in the books so close to reality as I can. Of course, there can be a little humor and fantasy too. To the readers: Yes, there is a Daddy Mouse, but he lives far away at the other side of town and doesn’t have a part in the stories. The journey to the cabin to pick berries was a real event, and yes, there was an outdoor toilet.
DO: It sometimes happens that foreign publishers want to make some adjustments for their target audience. Even I, for an example, requested to change the font on behalf of Estonian readers (thank you for granting it, it’s a hit!) Little Mouse series has been sold to many different countries. What kind of changes have other publishers asked for?
RJ: Well, the first and probably the most important adjustment was, when the books were first sold to England, that they had to decide the gender of Little Mouse. Was it ’he’ or ’she’. Because in the Finnish language, there is no difference, it could be either. I never had really thought of which one is it, boy or girl. I think at first I thought of a girl because I have a daughter myself. But then we decided that in the English version it will be ’he’.
DO: And just to keep the questions short – we would like to know, which of the 6 books is your favorite?
RJ: The latest work is usually closest to my heart, so at the moment my favorite is book number six, Little Mouse’s Summer. I’m gradually getting more and more into book seven, but it’s still in progress.
The interview was conducted by Dea Oidekivi (Publisher, Rahva Raamat).
Publishers kindly thank the author for her time and interesting answers. They eagerly wait to publish all the additional books and wish the LITTLE MOUSE to conquer the world. 🙂