STARRED REVIEW
August 25, 2022

The Mouse Who Carried a House on His Back

By Jonathan Stutzman, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
This picture book has the feel of a traditional fable as it guides readers to understand the importance of compassionate, unconditional inclusion.
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A mouse opens his home to one creature after another in this story of kindness and abundant hospitality. 

After many travels, Vincent, “a small mouse with boots on his feet, a hat on his head, and a house on his back,” decides to settle down. Not long after he places his house at the crest of a hill with a spectacular view, a tired bullfrog hops up. When Vincent invites the frog inside to rest, the amphibian is initially skeptical, because Vincent’s house looks much too small to comfortably accommodate them both. However, the bullfrog soon discovers that the house is “much bigger than it appeared.”  

One by one, other weary forest dwellers arrive at Vincent’s door. He warmly welcomes them all as his house expands to suit their needs, and inside is as cozy as you’d imagine a mouse’s home might be. A roaring fire, colorful rugs, mismatched wooden chairs and decorative string lights create an ambience of comfort and whimsy. It all stands in sharp contrast to the rainy night when, amid dark grays and blacks, a lost, hungry bear approaches, filling all the houseguests with fear. Will Vincent’s unwavering spirit of generosity extend to this final lonesome traveler?

The rural setting and cast of anthropomorphized animals, along with author Jonathan Stutzman’s formal tone, give The Mouse Who Carried a House on His Back the feel of a traditional fable. Like fables, the book also imparts clear moral messages as it guides readers to understand the importance of compassionate, unconditional inclusion.  

Illustrator Isabelle Arsenault’s gouache, ink and cut-paper artwork playfully brings these messages to life. In the book’s opening spread, she depicts Vincent’s house as a simple pentagonal outline in a vibrant shade of pink. Each time a new visitor appears at Vincent’s doorstep, a new house in a new architectural style appears on the hillside adjacent to the pentagon, creating a cheery conglomeration of homes. A powerful gatefold spread captures the end result. Young readers will delight in noticing the visual similarities between the new dwellings and Vincent’s latest houseguests.

Readers will empathize with the bear and be inspired by the mouse as Stutzman and Arsenault gently reveal the value of an open door—and an open heart.

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The Mouse Who Carried a House on His Back

The Mouse Who Carried a House on His Back

By Jonathan Stutzman, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Candlewick
ISBN 9781536216790

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