Wednesday 14 September 2016

The Cat and the King, written and illustrated by Nick Sharratt, reviewed by Pippa Goodhart

This handsome hardback chapter book has a gold foil front cover, and every single page inside is illustrated in black and red and pink toned artwork that makes every page accessible to even non-reading children.  It's a lovely object, and a treat to open and read.  What you find inside is Nick Sharratt's first published novel, and its great fun.

This story of an innocent but proud king and his clever cat, displaced from the palace and learning to live in the more ordinary world, is charming; funny and poignant.  I love the family next door with the sulky dad who is determined not to be impressed by a king, and the children who earn medals from the king for their artwork and recorder playing.  There's are entertaining sub-plots  where we can spot which of the dozen palace servants who lost their palace jobs turn up in ordinary life as bus drivers,  shop staff, and more.  And what, exactly, will the King and the Cat use that wheelbarrow and feather boa for which were amongst their car boot sale purchases?  The story is a simple one, seasoned with jokes and with odd moments of danger to thrill.  In spite of being about a moustachioed king and a cat, it is actually about anybody displaced from their familiar home surroundings and assumptions, and having to adapt and find new friends in a new life.  We see the King in tears before he settles happily into his new life.  All that is very pertinent to today's global world, but also to the immediate lives of young children starting in new classes in school or moving house.

The story is aimed at children of perhaps three to sevenish, but there is plenty of humour for the adult who is likely to be reading the text out loud.  What a handsome Christmas present it would be to unwrap ... if its not too early to make a remark like that!


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