Mice problems? Here’s Michael De Souza to offer his own unique approach to pest control. Michael is the co-creator of the animated children’s books and TV series Rastamouse, that feature a reggae-loving and crime-solving mouse. Moving from Trinidad in the 1960s and growing up a council house in Notting Hill, Michael was used to seeing mice running around. “They scared me,” he says, “but now they’ve emerged again in a new time.” Much like the characters in Rastamouse, Michael decided to “make a bad ting good” and to take inspiration from these rent-dodging mice. So in 1998 he started to write poems and rhymes about a mouse that lived in a council house. And so Rastamouse was born.
It was in collaboration with author and illustrator Genevieve Webster that Rastamouse and the Crucial Plan was published in 2005, spawning three sequels and followed by the animated CBeebies television version in 2011. The show follows crime busting mouse reggae band Da Easy Crew, who split their time between making music and solving mysteries. The stories emphasise the importance of solving problems through mutual understanding, love and respect, and without resorting to punishment. Rastamouse’s ethos is redemption and not retribution — “make a bad ting good” — helping wrong-doers to redeem themselves from their mistakes. The aim of the show, according to Michael, is to get families and communities together again, especially the Caribbean communities that are at the heart of places such as Notting Hill. “A lot of children can identify with the show. It’s very simple and down to earth showing the multicultural society we’re living in.” But he also wants the show to be educational. “It has values. Everything children see they can learn from…The educational point of view is vital in the show,” he says.
And now a shop devoted entirely to “All Tings Rastamouse” can be found in Peckham. Here you will find not only Rastamouse books and toys amongst other tings, but also on offer are workshops, readings and and other community and educational inspired projects. All tings are looking irie (meaning good in Patois) for Rastamouse. Not bad for a mouse from Notting Hill.
The Rastamouse books can be purchased from The Notting Hill Bookshop
All Tings Rastamouse can be found at Unit 30, 48 Rye Lane Market, Peckham, SE15 5BY