You know a book has captured your children’s imagination when you’re asked to read it for the 17th time in the space of a few hours… and you don’t mind!
‘I am a collector of cats.
I have no cats.
But I do have a plan…’
What could POSSIBLY go wrong?
From the moment I spotted the front cover of Collecting Cats on Lorna Scobie’s Insta feed, I knew it would be popular here. Sure enough, from the first reading, we had an instant hit on our hands. The premise is very simple. Cheese = Mice = CATS. So far, so easy. Initially, the collector (our anonymous narrator) acquires twelve cats – two fluffy, three spotty, four fat and three thin. But, then they get a leeeetle bit greedy and use more cheese to collect more cats – too many to count – and then in strolls a BIG cat… a BIG, STRIPY cat. Yep, things get a bit out of hand!
Initially, I was surprised at how short the book felt. It’s the standard picture book length of 32 pages, but with only a small clutch of words on each. Of course, my doubts were unfounded – there is plenty of conversation-fodder, from the endpapers (a delight for cheese-lovers), to the many different expressions of the cats and mice on each page, and their interactions – it’s like a modern take on T.S.Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Primrose’s favourite is of a grey, stripy cat being clobbered around the chops by a black cat. Each time we get to that page, she does an action and sound effect (*POW*, *BIFF*, *DOOF*). Wilf’s silence during the middle section is bookended by mouse squeaks and pretend-cheese-eating at the beginning and A LOT of roaring at the end. Marvellous. The drily humorous tone of the narrative makes reading it aloud great fun – I’ve adopted a variety of different voices thus far – and the hubris of the narrator reminds me of Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise. Genius!
Ever since we lost our beloved ginger prince, Elvis, when Primrose was nine months old, we’ve been debating whether or not we should introduce a new cat to the household. Trouble is, he was a bit of a one-off; more like a dog in his loyal and cuddly nature, whilst still maintaining that haughty, untouchable air that cats seem to have down pat. Plus, I don’t miss the cat hair that it’s impossible the completely eradicate but, but, BUT… Collecting Cats makes me want to fill our house with ALL the cats. Of course, Prim and Wilfie would love this. Until we get a new cat, this book will help tide us over. From all the cats so brilliantly depicted by Lorna, we quickly picked out our Elvis (big, ginger, ruddy gorgeous), my aunt and uncle’s cat, Molly (white, contrary, deceptively innocent-looking but prone to digging claws in without warning) and their neighbour’s cat, Skip (enormous, black with white socks, crushing on Molly from a distance). Most exciting of all has been the spotting of Toby, the Siamese cat who lives next door to my dad, has the loudest ‘meow’ (‘MRRREEEEEEEEEAAAAAAHHHHHW’), strolls into his house at whim, and delights the children by joining us at the table.
I was lucky enough to attend the launch of Collecting Cats at the brilliant GOSH! Comics last week (I know, an ACTUAL NIGHT OUT – I didn’t know what to do with myself!) and met Lorna for a quick CATch up. She pointed out the cat that’s based on a cat her family had growing up, affectionately named ‘Runty’. He’s easy to spot in the book as he has flies buzzing around him, and now we talk about him lots too.
Currently available in English, Welsh, Czech, Danish, Slovenian, Polish, Dutch and Taiwanese.
Huge thanks to the lovely team at Scholastic for sending me a review copy of Collecting Cats, and for inviting me to be a part of this blog book tour. It is available now, from all good booksellers. If you’d like the chance to win a copy of this homage to all things feline, I will be running a giveaway for the next week through our Facebook page, as well as my IG page.
Jo, The Mother Side xx