Flat Cat

Flat Cat
Hiawyn Oram and Gwen Millward
Walker Books

Pampered puss Jimi-My-Jim, living a seemingly idyllic life with Sophie in a flat at the top of a tall block, does his very best to show his appreciation. As a result Sophie has no idea that her pet longs to be a part of the outside world.

When Sophie and her parents leave home each day why, you might wonder, does he merely sit at the window watching life go by? I certainly did.

Little by little his pampered, prison-like existence takes its toll: the creature begins to flatten out until he looks utterly two dimensional – he’s become, in the style of Jeff Brown’s human boy hero Stanley, a FLAT CAT.

Then one day, Sophie and her Mum leave him alone. Now here I anticipated Jimi sliding under the door, but no. In their haste, the two forget the keys giving him the perfect opportunity to take action. He dons his coat, grabs the keys, does a spot of climbing and exits onto the street, destination another feline he’s had his eye on.

Streetwise Blanche introduces herself and offers to show Jimi around. Together they explore the city;

Blanche takes Jimi to meet all her feline friends and a few canine ones as well; but  evening comes all too soon and Jimi doesn’t want to say farewell.

Instead he invites his new friends home and even thows a party for them.

What on earth will Sophie and her parents do when they return? Could it be the end for Jimi’s forays into the big wide world?
Let’s just say it’s a happy ending and not just for the main protagonist …

I’ve always been a rule-breaker so thoroughly enjoyed Hiawyn’s tale of freedom, adventure and friendship, feline style. Gwen Millward’s distinctive naive, flat cartoon illustrations are a purr-fect portrayal of Jimi’s jaunts and underscore the message that freedom, love and friendship not material things are what make people happy.

Snowboy and the Last Tree Standing

Snowboy and the Last Tree Standing
Hiawyn Oram and Birgitta Sif
Walker Books

Snowboy likes to spend his time playing imaginative games with his animal companions. Greenbackboy is riddled with greed. He persuades Snowboy to join him in a ‘better game’ he calls KA-CHING. The game entails cutting down all the forest trees in return for KA-CHING, which seemingly, can be used to get anything they want. With one tree left standing however, the enormity of what they’ve done strikes Snowboy and with the aid of his Cloak of Many Uses, he manages to hide the last tree.
Not satisfied with his ill-gotten gains, Greenbackboy drags his reluctant fellow player off to the oceans, their next target for exploitation.
With all the fish netted Snowboy again has second thoughts and manages to release two of their catch overboard, unnoticed by his companion.

But strongboxes filled with KA-CHING and mountains of tinned fish give no protection from the ravages of a storm that brews up, sweeping the tinned fish into the empty ocean to go to waste.
Snowboy has had enough.

Leaving Greenbackboy with his treasure, he, his Ice Troupers and Polar Bear King trek back across the wasted land, finally reaching that last tree.
Could it just be that with tender loving care, the tree can become their saviour?

Hiawyn Oram’s unusual story has a powerful ecological message: a fable about greed and exploitation of natural resources, it’s a timely reminder of what is happening to our planet.
Birgitta Sif’s beautiful illustrations have a muted luminescence and bring a touch of quirkiness to what is essentially a dark tale.

Grissel Hunting, Unsuitable Pets and a Dragon Quest

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Daniel reading the story to his mum

Beetle and Bug and the Grissel Hunt
Hiawyn Oram and Satoshi Kitamura
Andersen Press pbk
Some people go hunting for rarely seen animals: Beetle and Bug decide to hunt for the never before seen, Green-Spotted Grissel but then they do have a magic rug that can carry them through the air and sea. First stop is the ocean depths where they spy something red and promising looking. Up close however, despite bright green dots and ‘terribly Grisselly wiggles and loops’, the forked tail is a giveway – “IT’S A MAWK!” cries Bug.

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Off they go again, into space this time (having first donned suitable gear and taken on some air). Suddenly Beetle spies something on an asteroid, something prickly and spiny, something with peculiar curves and lines just like a Grissel. A close encounter reveals a distinct lack of green spots and the thing doesn’t seem at all friendly – time to beat a hasty retreat guys. Back home they go, more than ready for a bite to eat. But what should they find lurking in their fridge – oh no! the dreaded G-NUZZLER and what’s worse, the creature has demolished every single morsel therein.
Hungry and Grisselless the pair go off to bed. Tomorrow is another day and tomorrow’s hunt? ‘SOMETHING TO EAT
Completely crazy, this wildly offbeat story is such fun to read aloud, provided you can keep up the breath-taking pace of Hiawyn Oram’s somewhat Lear-like rhyming saga. Don’t go too fast though; children will want plenty of time to explore Kitamura’s wacky, surreal collage illustrations.

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Melissa’s Octopus and other Unsuitable Pets
Charlotte Voake
Walker Books
Pets of all shapes and sizes inhabit Charlotte Voake’s latest offering. There is Betty’s disappearing chameleon, Arthur’s willful warthog,

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Simon’s well-behaved worm and Caroline’s gentle giraffe to name just a few;
but watch out for Kevin and Bertrand’s new pet with its long tail, huge jaws and ‘glittering teeth’. Despite his smile, he might just be the most unsuitable of all …

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A lovely playful book. Owners and pets alike are portrayed in lively, humorous pen and watercolour illustrations; and how refreshing to have the text printed in red on a grey background almost throughout.

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The Moon Dragons
Dyan Sheldon and Gary Blythe
Andersen Press
Long ago, when even trees had dreams, moon dragons flew through the night sky. Their scales shone silver as stars and they filled the dark with songs as old as time.’ This is the tale a traveller tells to a king, but he also tells him that a few such dragons still hide high up atop a distant mountain. The king offers a room full of gold to anyone who brings him one. From far and wide come all manner of men but none succeeds in the dragon quest. Then comes young Alina, a peasant girl from the foot of the mountain who had heard of said dragons from her grandmother and had them visit her dreams too. Despite the king’s scorn, she is determined to seek out the dragons and off she sets with her head full of long ago songs. Finally she discovers what she seeks

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but does she take the king his dragon? Read the ending yourself to discover the answer to this magical story.

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