I'm posting about Rastamouse today not so much in the spirit of hard sell- 'you must get this book'- I like them, I don't necessarily love them- but more as a place to air my and the husband's increasing anxieties about irregularities in government in the state of Mouseland. Rather like our 'Peepo' obsessing, the Rastamouse books are forming a staple of dinnertime conversation for us post bedtime story at the moment. That in itself is a recommendation I guess; there are plenty of books which we are very happy never to return to once we've turned off the light and said goodnight.
Eddie's Rastamouse enthusiasms pre-date the CBeebies television show but have certainly been solidified by the Easy Crew's animated incarnation. We have all three books written by Michael De Souza and illustrated by Genevieve Webster; 'Rastamouse and the Crucial Plan', 'Rastamouse and Da Bag-a Bling' and 'Rastamouse and the Double Crossin' Diva'. They demand some good patois skills to read aloud which challenges me almost as much as the Yorkshire brogue I had to accomplish reading Bill 'The Secret Garden' recently. Both reduce the husband to stifled giggles, which earn him some hard stares over the top of my glasses.
If you haven't come across him, skateboarding Rastamouse, with his friends Scratchy and Zoomer manage to combine successful careers in a super-cool reggae band with alternative careers as crime-fighting special agents. They are at the beck and call of the shady President Wensleydale, who can call on them on his special radio at any time to solve the problems of Mouseland. They variously solve the cheese thieving of lonely chef criminal Bandulu, the orphan kidnapping of audience-lacking rapper Bagga T and the bus-jacking of diva-wannabe Missy D. It's all good stuff. The text has a bouncy rhyme which is fun to read. The illustrations are in-your-face Lucy Cousins-esque bright and cheery.
Still we feel there is a dark, dark core at the centre of the Rastamouse universe.
First off, President Wensleydale has the air of a military dictator who- I don't think it's speculating too much at all to say- may have earned power in a bloody coup. He wears a blue uniform at all times, complete with peaked cap marked 'President' in case anyone is any doubt. He often appears flanked by two nameless, wordless mice also in blue uniform who may or may not be something to do with a savage secret police.
Where are the police anyway? Why does all responsibility for crime solving fall to three frankly under-qualified reggae stars who stage sting operations of dubious legality and reckless orphan endangerment?
And having 'solved' the crime- where is Mouseland's due legal process? Rastamouse takes it upon himself to accept the baddie's apology as sole restitution. They are then found employment in the Mouseland orphanage where frankly the most basic CRB checks seem to be absent. This can't be right.
Why are there so many orphans in Mouseland anyway? What happened to their parents and why is there no programme to move away from this outdated large scale institutionalism to more modern practices of small group fostering? The level of child abandonment seems further evidence of a bloody recent past to me.
And who is it that thinks a diet composed entirely of cheese pies is any way to feed a community?
Are there books which obsess you and your family in this way? I should add that the album of music from the TV show is surprisingly good, forming the backdrop to much of our life last summer. Here's a taster to warm you on a grey day:
'Rastamouse and the Crucial Plan' written by Michael De Souza and Genevieve Webster, illus. Genevieve Webster. pub. Little Roots, isbn 978-0-9546098-1-8