Finn and Puss

Finn and Puss

Finn and Puss











Finn and Puss

Robert Vescio

Melissa Mackie

EK Books, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


When Finn, a lonely little boy, finds a lost cat it would seem their problems are solved.  Finn has a friend and the cat has a home. 

But then Finn spots a poster advertising the cat as lost … Will he return it or is their friendship more important to him?

Told in a few words but with exquisite illustrations that are as gentle as the story but rich in emotion and detail, this  is a story which explores the connections between a child and a pet and how hard it can be to do the right thing.  But sometimes that right thing can have its own reward.


Scarface Claw, Hold Tight

Scarface Claw, Hold Tight

Scarface Claw, Hold Tight









Scarface Claw, Hold Tight

Lynley Dodd

Puffin, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


It is a calm, peaceful sunny morning where everything is as and where it should be, including Scarface Claw snoozing in the sun on top of the roof of the car.  But all that changes when Tom starts the car and drives off without realising Scarface is still on top!!!

Is there any more famous cat with young children than Scarface Claw? He’s the toughest tomcat in town, the roughest and toughest, the boldest, the bravest, the fiercest, mighty and magnificent – so much so that he sent Schnitzel von Krumm with a very low tum, Bitzer Maloney all skinny and bony, Muffin McLay like a bundle of hay, Bottomley Potts covered in spots, Hercules Morse as big as a horse and Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy scampering home with just one EEEEEOWWWFFTZ way back in 1983!

And now it is Scarface Claw’s turn to be terrified as he clings on for dear life to the roof of Tom’s speeding car.

This new adventure from Dame Lynley Dodd told in rhyme with all the action and wonderful illustrations of the others in this fabulous series for young children is set to introduce a new generation to a host of characters that have brought so much joy that they have their own sculpture in Tauranga in New Zealand.  (In fact, Hairy Maclary is such a part of my reading story that, despite the pouring rain, I chose to find this sculpture instead of accompanying the family to Hobbiton.)


Every child needs to know Scarface Claw, Hairy Maclary and the rest of the gang – this new tale will be a great introduction and is icing on the cake of a brilliant series for existing fans. 

Big Box Little Box

Big Box Little Box

Big Box Little Box










Big Box Little Box

Caryl Hart

Edward Underwood

Bloomsbury, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


Big box, little box…

My box, YOUR box!

Cat loves boxes – all sorts of boxes – big, small, fat, thin, huge tiny… and in this romp in rhyme so many boxes are explored. But it is not just a collection of rhyming words or opposites, there is a story told in the clever choice of words and their accompanying pictures that early readers will be able to tell for themselves, delighting in their ability to read.  

This is a great story to share with little ones because there is so much to share and talk about. If a fat cat sits on a little box, what will be the outcome?  And if a box has a corner nibbled out of it, what might be inside? And given the obvious answer, is this story about to end badly? Two word phrases, rhyme, bold pictures, humour, predictability that engages the reader – a perfect combination to take our youngest readers further into their love with reading. 


Crazy About Cats

Crazy About Cats

Crazy About Cats









Crazy About Cats

Owen Davey

Flying Eye Books, 2017

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


Sometimes it comes as a surprise to little people that cats are more than just the pretty kitty in a basket or the regular moggy that curls up and sleeps in the sun. Rather, there are about 38 different species which roam a range of habitats from the rainforest to the desert.

This book, full of information and illustrations, introduces the young readers to the wider world of cats with lots of facts and explanations including a double page spread which shows them drawn to scale in relation to each other and to  a human.  Each double page spread covers a different aspect of these creatures, including one that focuses on their future as more and more are lost particularly because of habitat destruction.  Both the vocabulary and the layout make the information easy for a young reader to understand and are sure to inspire the “Did you know…” comments that little ones love to surprise adults with. 

A great addition to the 599.75 section of your library.


The Catawampus Cat

The Catawampus Cat

The Catawampus Cat









The Catawampus Cat

Jason Carter Eaton

Gus Gordon

Viking 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Dictionaries define ‘catawampus’ as ‘out of alignment’, ‘crooked’, ‘askew’ ‘awry’… but when the catawampus cat arrived in town early on Tuesday morning nobody really noticed.  People went about their busy business as usual until the cat caught the eye of Mr Grouse the grocer who tried to straighten him.  To no avail.  But when his wife Lydia tilted her head to figure out what was wrong with the cat, her life changed.  As did that of the barber’s client who found herself with a unique haircut; the painter whose boring job on the mayor’s house suddenly became a work of art; and Captain Whizzbang set a record he was not even trying to do!  Even the town librarian found herself taking a new path and as for Bushy Brows Billiam…

Meanwhile the cat moves nonchalantly on, in contrast to  the life of the town with its unceasing traffic and frenetic people all captured in the delightful, detailed illustrations that emphasise the non-stop nature of city life.  As the town begins to learn to look at life from a new angle (literally) Mayor Meyer declares Catawampus Cat Day but the catawampus cat has a different idea.

This is a quirky story that illustrates the quirky nature of cats and their ability to ignore, if not disdain, the actions of humans. There is a lot of clever wordplay and  graphics that entertain the adult reader but mostly young readers will love the aloofness of the cat and will relate to its ability to be totally engaged on itself, and not be distracted by anything going on around it. At the very least they will love their new word and the way it rolls of the tongue!  Charming!

The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots

The Tale of Miss Kitty-in-Boots

The Tale of  Kitty-in-Boots










The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots

Beatrix Potter

Quentin Blake

Frederick Warne, 2016

72pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


By day, Miss Catherine St Quintin appeared to be a very serious, well-behaved black cat who answered to “Kitty” whenever the kind old lady who owned her called her.  The old lady saw a “Kitty” with all the pleasant connotations that that name brings to mind but Miss Catherine St Quintin led a double life.

Becaue by night, when she was supposedly locked in the wash-house, Kitty was not curled up in her basket dreaming sweet dreams until morning. For she was not the purring, nuzzling, gentle cat her owner believed her to be.  Known to her more common cat friends as “Q” and “Squintums”, she would leap out the laundry window to be replaced by Winkiepeeps, another black cat who would wait inside until Kitty came home just in case the old lady checked her, while she went hunting dressed in her coat and boots and carrying an air rifle.  A female lookalike of Puss-in-Boots.

This particular night she collects her gun from her friend Cheesebox, determined to join Slimmy Jimmy and John Stoat-Ferret as they hunt for rabbits.  However, she decides to hunt for mice instead, but being a rather unreliable and careless shooter, that is not is not very fruitful only managing to shoot Mrs Tiggy-Winkle’s bundle of washing and some sticks and stones that weren’t mice at all.  Sheep and crows seem a better target until they send her scurrying behind a wall in fright and she gets a big surprise when she fires at something coming out of a hole.  Unexpectedly she has met up with Slimmy Jimmy and John Stoat-Ferret who take her gun off her.  But she refuses to hand over the pellets and so a rather adventurous night involving the ferrets, Peter Rabbit, Mr Tod the Fox and Mrs Tiggy-Winkles begins.  Suffice to say, it’s enough to put  Miss Catherine St Quintin off hunting for ever.

The story of this story is as interesting as the tale itself.  Potter completed the text in 1914 and created just one illustration but the outbreak of World War I and other events meant she never completed the rest.  Thus the story went unpublished in her lifetime.  Undiscovered until Penguin Random House editor Jo Hanks found it in the Potter archive at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2013 and with  Quentin Blake accepting the invitation to illustrate it, it has just been published to coincide with what would have been Potter’s 150th birthday.

Fans of her works will be thrilled to share just one more adventure from this prolific creator and delight in the appearance of an older, more portly Peter Rabbit who has lost none of his smarts and wily ways as well as other favourite characters from her other books.

The only illustration that Potter completed for the book,

The only illustration for the book that Potter completed

To honour Beatrix Potter’s 150th birthday the UK has released a commemorative stamp collection.

Copy Cat

Copy Cat

Copy Cat










Copy Cat

Ali Pye

Nosy Crow, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Bella loves Anna so much that she wants to be just like her – so much so that she copies everything Anna does.  Whether it’s playing with the hula hoop, being a ballerina or a pirate, Bella is right there being Anna’s mirror.  But trouble erupts when Anna decides to be a princess and Bella copies her as usual, but there is just one crown…  Anna gets very cross and tells Bella to stop copying her and goes off to play be herself. 

At first Bella is sad because she has no one to copy and no one to play with – and then she discovers a skipping rope in her toybox.  And as she practises and practises, Chloe looks on wishing she could skip too.

“It’s easy!” said Bella.  “Just copy me!” 

And then Anna comes looking for Bella…

Even though this story stars three cats, it could quite easily focus on three children in the playground so well does it reflect the different dynamics of friendships and activities as they ebb and flow.  Told with a lot of repetitive text that invites the young reader to join in, it not only engages them that but also opens up opportunities to talk about friendships and how to make and maintain them.  The eye-catching, colourful illustrations add an extra dimension to this well-told tale that is perfect for early childhood readers who enjoy something a little different. 

Macavity’s Not There

Macavity's Not There

Macavity’s Not There











Macavity’s Not There

T. S. Eliot

Arthur Robins

Faber & Faber, 2016

16pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


In 1939, T.S. Eliot wrote his iconic Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats which became the foundation for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats. Within that collection, is a poem which begins

Macavity’s a mystery cat: he’s called the Hidden Paw…

For he’s the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He’s the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad’s despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime–Macavity’s not there!

 It goes on…

Macavity’s a ginger cat, he’s very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in

 Drawing on those two lines as the starting point and the constant refrain of the original of “Macavity’s not there” , Arthur Robins has again relied on the poem to create a wonderful lift-the-flap book encouraging young children to investigate just where this elusive cat might be.  Is he in the bedroom? The bathroom? Perhaps the kitchen? Maybe the rabbit hutch?  Ahhh- there he is!  Why didn’t we think of there in the first place?

Using very distinctive illustrations, Robins brings Macavity to life just as he did in his 2014 version of the original poem by T.S. Eliot.  But as well as engaging the young listener is the fun of discovering Macavity’s whereabouts, enticing them to suggest other places to look before turning the page, it’s a wonderful opportunity to explore language associated with cats – perhaps based on their observations of their own.  Are they always sweet, playful fluffy kittens or can they be mischievous, cunning, aloof, even fierce?  Using the cover picture, which words would they use to describe Macavity?  Can you take a photo of a cat they know and surround it with vocabulary?  Can you do a comparison chart between their cat, Macavity and other cats in literature?

Building their language and broadening their concepts about cats will be a great bridge to sharing the Robins’ version of the original and then travelling on to his Mr Mistofolees  and Skimbleshanks  so they can savour the beauty of the rhyme and rhythm of Eliot’s creations, marvel at his ability to tell a story and paint a picture in so few words and maybe even enjoy a performance of Cats. At the very least, they will be introduced to some superb poetry that may linger with them throughout their lives, as it has with me!

Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat

Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat

Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat










Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat

Emily MacKenzie

Bloomsbury, 2016

3299., pbk., RRP $A15.99



Stanley LOVES to knit. He knocks up pom-poms at breakfast time, whips up bobble hats at bath time. He even knits in his sleep! And what does Stanley do with his wonderful woollies? He gives them to his friends of course – balaclavas for bunnies, neckwarmers for giraffes and much more. All of his friends sport one of his creations – even the monkeys have woolly onesies!    One day Stanley sees a poster for a knitting competition inviting entrants to submit their wackiest woolly wonders.  And so Stanley begins to knit…and knit…and knit!  No one knows what it is he is creating  but trouble strikes when he runs out of wool.  Suddenly his friends find their precious gifts being unravelled as Stanley continues on his ques, leaving them cold and unhappy. 

But when all is revealed on the day of the competition when amongst they knitted dragons and cakes and dinosaurs and toadstools they discover…

This is a quirky story full of colour and light and love from a Scottish author/illustrator who has combined her love of knitting and drawing.  It will appeal to young readers who can let their imaginations go wild as they consider what sort of garments they might make for Stanley’s friends.    

Squishy McFluff the Invisible Cat: Secret Santa

Secret Santa

Secret Santa









Squishy McFluff, the Invisible Cat: Secret Santa

Pip Jones

Ellie Okstad

Faber and Faber, 2015

pbk, 80pp., RRP $A12.99



Squishy McFluff is so sweet, you’ll be smitten.
Such a clever and funny invisible kitten!

Imagine the fun of having a cat that only you can see, especially when it is really good at inventing great things to do like playing hide-and-seek at which he is world champion.  This is Ava’s luck.   She has a big imagination and is happiest when she’s playing with her cat, even though it can lead to trouble – which is exactly what happens in this latest addition to this series.

It’s nearly Christmas and Ava and Squishy are very excited.  But there are still preparations to be made, like buying the last minute things which means going into town where all is decorations and celebrations.  The trouble begins when Ava spots the wonky star at the top of the Christmas tree… The next day it is time to wrap the presents and when Mum says to wrap EVERYTHING, she is taken at her word… For someone who was trying to be good through all of December, this might not have a pretty ending for Ava, but she has one special thing she wants so she writes Santa a letter.

Young children will love this series from this English author as it holds many laughs and just a little bit of naughty. Written in rhyme it bounces along and Ella Okstad’s limited-palette illustrations are charming, capturing the essence of the text perfectly.

For those who can’t get enough of him, there’s a website with extra information and more fun and games at

This is something a little bit different to offer those just getting started on their independent reading journey who need a bit of support through short chapters, larger font and uncomplicated vocabulary – I think they will be eagerly awaiting the next adventure.  Perfect for putting aside for this year’s Christmas Countdown.