Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Milli, Jack and the Dancing Cat by Stephen Michael King (Allen and Unwin)

Some books feel like they intoxicate the reader with such a feeling of joy that you feel like picking them up and dancing around the room with them. This is definitely one such book. "Milli, Jack and the Dancing Cat" ticks so many of our 'joy' boxes that it's difficult to know where to start telling you how great it is. So we'll start at the beginning...!

Milli is a girl full of joie de vivre. Imaginative, creative, flame-haired (always ALWAYS a good thing, right @thestrollingmum?) but there's a problem. Milli happens to work as a shoemaker in a town that doesn't appreciate her creative side. Every day, day in and day out, she makes really boring work boots, brown boots, black boots. Boring boring shoes for people who want boring boring shoes. Milli longs to stand out in the crowd, be noticed, and let some of her infectious talent rub off on others.

A wandering minstrel and his talented cat comes to town, and after meeting Milli and finding out more about her, Jack decides that what the girl needs is to let her hair down and learn to dance.

Dance she will, every type of dance - Tap dancing, broadway dances, ballet, ballroom - you name it, Jack and his dancing cat can do it.

Milli and Jack (and the cat) become firm friends and secretly, one night, Milli makes Jack and the Cat a whole bunch of brilliant things from scrap (a particular talent of hers), and some fabulous footwear to dance in.

The good townsfolk take notice because Milli doesn't stop there. She realises that creativity is a good thing (are you listening Mr Gove? No? Aw never mind then, didn't expect you to) and that the world should know what a girl with an eye for colour and turning other people's rubbish into fabulous things can do.

Charlotte lapped every single page of this book up. The artwork's like a slightly more polished version of the sort of energetic work that Quentin Blake is famous for. The story is a delight, and the characters (particularly Milli) are utterly fabulous.

If you want a children's picture book that makes you feel like a kid again, or at least makes you feel like slipping into that bright orange and lime green stripey top instead of the grey one, then "Milli, Jack and the Dancing Cat" is most definitely for you.

Charlotte's best bit: Jack and the Dancing Cat's fabulous bike-chariot-transport thing Milli builds for them.

Daddy's favourite bit: A book with a smile on each page, and a gigantic cheesy watermelon-eating grin at the end. Utterly lovely.