March Artist of the Month – Michael De Souza
We caught up with Ratsa Mouse author Michael De Souza for our March 2019 interview.
About Michael De Souza
Michael de Souza is the author of the classic book series Rastamouse and the creator of the well-known CBeebies character of the same name; along with bandmates Scratchy & Zoomer who together form Da Easy Crew. He is also co-founder of Little Roots Publishing, who published the original books.
Michael came to England in 1960, when he left his native Trinidad to join his parents in Notting Hill, West London. He has spent most of the last 22 years teaching swimming. It was his love of teaching and working with children that inspired Michael to pursue a career in writing.
The imagination and bravery of his students in overcoming their fear of water encouraged Michael to dive into the world of writing and publishing. His first book ‘Rastamouse and the Crucial Plan’, was first published in November 2003 and by 2011 it become a much loved animated series.
What a visit from Michael entails
Michael’s sessions are interactive, students are chosen to play various characters, props are provided e.g. Rastamouse’s hat, Bagga T’s bling and President Wensley Dale’s radio. Michael reads the narration and leads the students (in some cases teachers) in the Patois dialogue. Michael does assemblies and also works with individual classes. The sessions usually involve a bit of physical and mental warm up. i.e. memorising a short verse and some gentle stretching and jumping – these exercises prove to very popular.
Feedback from Michael’s previous visits.
“It was great, Children and staff had a fantastic time.” Northview Primary
“As a teacher, it was really the most amazing learning. The whole month was about ‘Rastamouse’. We got some fantastic story writing out of it and it was really brilliant for getting the children to learn ‘by heart’ because they loved all of the rhymes so much.” Newborough C of E Primary School
“He was really brilliant at acting stories out and he was funny and sometimes he knows when to stop at the right time like if you’re getting too laughy. I loved acting it out.” Key Stage 1 Student
“It was great as Literacy Leader to see the Year 2 class have the book they were working on come to life. They had practised and could recite many of the poems and stories before Michael de Souza’s visit, so when he arrived it was a great shared experience of the love of his books and characters. The reaction from the children was amazing. They laughed so much and continue to talk about it months later. They still recite the rhyme Aunty D on the playground!” Newborough C of E Primary School
Interview with Michael De Souza
How and when did you come to join Authors Abroad?
I was first made aware of Authors Abroad by a colleague at Pop-up Projects. I signed up with Authors Abroad in late 2016
Where did the idea for Rastamouse first come from?
The idea for Rastamouse came from my childhood memories of a room full of mice in my parents first home in Notting Hill in the early 60s when I first came to England from Trinidad.They all had such different personalities.
Can you remember how you felt when you had your first book published?
I felt extremely pleased and proud on the publication of my first book…Rastamouse and da Crucial plan…Because I published it myself.
What do you want children to feel after reading Rastamouse?
First and foremost I like the children to laugh and feel happy to hear the stories.I also hope they feel inspired to produce something of their own.
How proud are you of the Rastamouse TV series? Do you feel they honour the books well?
I felt immense pride to see Rastamouse on TV but sad that my mother didn’t live to see it.She was my greatest supporter. The BBC were loyal to the original stories. This was very satisfying.
What is your favourite thing about visiting schools?
I enjoy visiting school because of the enthusiasm and energy of the children.Also I tune into this energy which vitalises me. It encourages me to want to do more with them.The children are always welcoming and fun
Does it always go smoothly when you have children volunteers reading out and acting out the books on stage with you?
The readings don’t always go smoothly when I get some children on stage to help act out the story because some get stage fright and clam up.!!! Oh oh.!!
What has been the funniest moment during a school visit or festival appearance so far?
The funniest that has happened so far on a visit was when I went to the Edinburgh International book fare. I chose a tall gentleman in a kilt to play the Mouseland rapper Bagga Trouble. He gave the best performance I’ve ever seen including an authentic Carribean accent. My self and the audience were in stitches and awe.
What has been your career highlight so far?
There are three highlights in my career so for. The first was the first screening of Rastamouse in 2011. Then being invited to Trinidad as the guest of honour of a animation company for my creation of Rastamouse by a son of the Trinidad soil. My trip to Thailand with Authors Abroad in 2017 was the next highlight in my career thus far.
What are your future ambitions?
I would like to present my swimming teaching methods in print.I have been practising my methods since 1988.It has been extremely successful.
I would also like to produce as many black characters as possible to bridge the diversity gap in picture books and in fact all types of books for children.
Do you think picture books can teach children morals and lessons as well as being fun?
Without a doubt I agree picture books can teach morals and good values.Especially when they deal with caring and sharing.
What was your favourite book during your childhood?
In school I enjoyed Moby Dick, The Wind In Willows and The Cat in The Hat!!
Do you still make time for swimming? What do you do to relax?
I swim three time a week to keep myself in good shape and park up on my couch listening to Reggae music to relax
Should children’s books ever discuss serious topics such as bereavement and bullying, or just be fun to encourage children to read?
I do believe children’s books should deal with issues such as bereavement and family breakdown providing it is presented in a caring sensitive manner!!
Paperback or Kindle? Paperback
Early morning or night owl? Both
Tom and Jerry or Sylvester and Tweety Pie? Sylvester and Tweety Pie
Would you rather be able to teleport or become invisible? Teleport. I love travelling.
If you were Prime Minister for the day, what law would you introduce? An afternoon nap for all at Authors Abroad!!
Arrange for Michael De Souza to visit your school
To make an enquiry about Michael, or any of the other authors, poets & illustrators listed on this website, please phone Trevor Wilson on +44 (0) 1535 656015, or email him at email@example.com