Monday, 31 January 2011
A Cat and Mouse post
Mati, the Tygrine Cat, exploded on to the children's book scene a few years ago, whiskers twitching, tail lashing, golden eyes aflame. And now he's back, in Inbali Iserlis' sequel The Tygrine Cat on the Run (Walker Books). I must admit a prejudice favour of this magnificent animal and his stories: Mati is an Abyssinian and I've had two of those. Sadly both my handsome boys had short lives but I can still appreciate such a fine figure of a cat.
The premise behind the books is that when all cats were created, there were two rival tribes.The Sa Mau were the killers and the Tygrine the playful ones. But all modern cats have both instincts and Mati must do much to hold both traits together.
We meet him still with the colony of cats at Cressida Lock but soon aware of an approaching danger worse than any they have faced before: he has to conince the cats to leave and find a new home and not all are convinced. It is a book in the fine tradition of animal stories for children and young readers and one that no cat-lover will want to miss.
The boy in Penny Dolan's book really is a boy and not a mouse, fortunately since I have brought him into such close proximity with the Tygrine Cat.It's rather a treat to have found two good junior novels to blog about. And A Boy called M.O.U.S.E. is a treat in itself. It's a chunky read at nearly 450 pages but will suit just the right child reader - as well as me!
And it's beautifully designed and decorated, which makes it easier to handle the long and complicated story in the kind of book that used to be described as "picaresque". Mouse is the grandchild of Epsilon Epton, an aged and rich man. But the intervening generation - Mouse's parents - has been wiped out in a shipwreck and his Uncle Scrope is casting evil looks at his vulnerable baby nephew, the rightful heir to the Epton fortune.
Mouse is whisked unexpectedly out of danger but ends up in an institution that owes a lot to Dotheboys Hall in Nicholas Nickleby. But it's not just the school that conjures up Dickens. The Punch and Judy man, the teeming streets of London and especially the backstage cast of characters at the Albion Theatre - all recall the Victorian master of the rags to riches story.
Once we get to London it's a thoroughly enjoyable romp of villains and comeuppances, hide-and-seek and illusions, theatrical plots and cunning plans, sharing unlikely friendships and dodging enemies. And, like Dickens, Dolan gives us a really rousing ending with all the ends tied up.