Mi and Museum City: A curious and creative picture book debut

posted in: Linda Sarah | 10

miandmuseumcityfrontcoverAn exciting book about being observant, imaginative and open to the wonder and delight in even the smallest things, Mi and Museum City by Linda Sarah (@travelandsing) is an utterly charming and magical début which will be hitting bookshelves early in February.

Life for Mi is boring and lonely. Although Mi’s hometown is packed with museums, they are nearly all dull, dreary and depressing. Can you imagine what it would be like to be dragged round the ‘Museum of Extreme Politeness’ or the ‘Museum of One Man Walking Very Slowly’?

Things all start to change the day Mi discovers Yu, a busker making marvellous and slightly mysterious music. Through songs and food they build a friendship and soon decide to approach the mayor about opening different sorts of museums in their town; museums which celebrate all that makes them joyous, all that they find curious and wonderful.


Although not without hiccups along the way, Mi and Yu are the catalyst for a transformation in Museum City. Up pops the ‘Museum of Rain that housed three billion raindrops and one piece of lost rainbow’, and the ‘Museum of the White Bits on Waves’, and many, many other buildings celebrating the whimsical, the quirky, the exciting and the unusual. Thanks to their vision and energy, Mi and Yu’s home is now a fun, bright place to live.

Clever naming of the lead characters puts the reader/listeners straight into the heart of this slightly off-the-wall story. With is intricately detailed, scratchy pencil and wash illustrations this brilliant book is best for curling up with in laps; there are many cameos to comment on and linger over. But I do hope it will also be enjoyed in classrooms as it lends itself so naturally to encouraging creative, lateral, out-of-the-box thinking.

Mi and Museum City was one of my most anticipated books of 2014 before I’d even read a full copy, and now we’ve actually got it in our home, it’s brought lots of delight and smiles. Appealing to kids’ natural passion for collecting the weird and wonderful, celebrating the transformative power of music and our ability to create beautiful worlds we’d like to live in if only we’d give it a go, this picture book by Linda Sarah is charmingly eccentric and heartwarming.

A detail from Mi and Museum City by Linda Sarah
A detail from Mi and Museum City by Linda Sarah

Now it turns out that there are some pretty crazy museums already out there in the world, for example The Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, The Lunchbox museum, The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum and the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum . But fortunately one person’s idea of museum weirdness is another person’s idea of museum fascination. If you weren’t passionate about books and illustration what would you think of museums dedicated to bookbindings, comic strips (take a virtual visit thanks to Google Open Gallery), brush pens and inks, pencils, pencil sharpeners, erasers, pens, paper, typewriters and Forgotten Art Supplies?

Mi and Museum City got us wanting to create our own museums. In the past we’ve made a natural history museum out of jam-jars (the museum continues to grow, I’m glad to say), and museum displays using mini luggage tags, but this time we used old postage stamps to illustrate museums we’d like to visit.

First we chose a bag of stamps in WHSmiths (they sell themed packets of used stamps for stamp collectors, but you can also easily get collections on eBay)…


… and used these stamps as our museum objects, which we then framed…


…before families came to visit!

Click for larger image
Click for larger image
Click for a larger image
Click for a larger image

Music we listened to whilst illustrating our museums included:

  • Collection Of Stamps by I’m From Barcelona
  • The Edison Museum by They Might Be Giants
  • Museum Song from Barnum the Musical

  • Other activities to get up to along side reading Mi and Museum City could include:

  • Taking your pick from my list of over 60 children’s books set in real museums you can go and visit!
  • Exploring http://www.show.me.uk/, “a collection of online games and interactive content produced by the UK’s museums and galleries, for children aged 4 to 11.“. Grown-ups who like taking kids to museums may also want to check out Kids in Museums (@kidsinmuseums), which is “working with museums to help them welcome and include families, teenagers and children“.
  • Encouraging your kids to curate their own museum collections in the Google Cultural Institute. I curated this collection of pen boxes and inkwells and images of reading, whilst J went for a collection of unicorns. My thanks go to @EdintheClouds for alerting me to Google Cultural Institute. Brooklyn Children’s Museum also offers a similar opportunity for children to curate sets of objects online, via their Show My Stuff application. Thanks to @mardixon and @BrooklynKids for sharing this with me.

  • Have you been to a museum yet this year? What sort of museum would you most like to visit this year?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of Mi and Museum City from the publishers.

    10 Responses

    1. linda sarah

      Wow Zoe, thank you for writing such a lovely, inspiring review of Mi and Museum City (my first one!). I am so happy that you and your amazing fellow artists enjoyed it and then went on to create such a splendid museum of stamps. The frames are genius. And I love the comments being made by the visitors, and ‘this is a vase’, and everything about it. This would definitely be on my list of museums to visit. And I love the music to play alongside the making of it. Completely inspiring! I had a few questions for the creators of this museum: If you could have any image on a stamp, what would it be? And would doors and windows in the museum be made of stamps too? Would there be any objects made from stamps e.g. hat, animal, chair, stairs etc. and would the museum be tiny (big as a stamp), or huge, flat, or pointy, envelope-shaped etc…?

      PS: I don’t know if you got it already with your copy of the book, but there is also a ‘How to Make Your Museum of Me’ (fairly silly) instruction sheet by Mi and Yu and also a smaller book ‘Mi’s Book of You’. If you’d like copies of these, please let me or Emma know and we can send them to you. I also have some mini dangle-paintings (made from original art that didn’t get into the book). These can be worn (in non-wet conditions), used as bookmarks, or even floppedy earrings etc. So, if you’d like these, let us know. Once again – Thank you! Reading this, and your other blogs is always inspiring and a complete pleasure! linda
      linda sarah recently posted..like stars, like skybeams, like love with all its stories

    2. Zoe

      Hi Rhythm, there was something v satisfiying about using the stamps – and it started a lot more conversations, looking in detail at the images and where the stamps came from.

      Hi Linda! I shall put your questions to my young museum makers when they wake up! Yes, thankyou, all the lovely goodies came too. ‘Mi’s Book of You’ has been a big hit!

    3. Lari Don

      This book looks gorgeous, with lots of detail in the illustration for wee ones who like spotting things in books. And your blog post reminded me of a very dusty old museum we went to once which had a display case titled: A Look At Rocks. Now I like geology, but this really was just a pile of stones… All very thought provoking about how to make life and learning fun!

    4. Mrs Brown's Books

      What a charmed debut book! I think E will love this one and it makes me think of the Pablo Neruda house in Isla Negra, Chile – one of my favorite quirky museums. Please can we get a copy of this book in the hands of every politician who questions the value of museums?
      Mrs Brown’s Books recently posted..Five of my favorite books from 2013

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