Tuesday 18 February 2014

Squishy McFluff - The Invisible Cat by Pip Jones and Ella Okstad (Faber and Faber)

Squishy McFluff

Written by Pip Jones

Illustrated by Ella Okstad

Published by Faber and Faber Children's Books

There seem to be an awful lot of books hitting our review schedule at the moment that deal with a fairly sensitive subject - imaginary friends. I had one as a kid called Pooki, and like the little girl, Ava, in this book, Pooki was more a good way of getting into (and excusing my way out of) mischief than being a perfect pet or companion.

Ava discovers Squishy McFluff one day in the vegetable patch, and instantly takes a liking to the invisible kitty (sensibly always shown as a mysterious transparent moggy). Ava goes everywhere with Squishy. He's extremely easy to look after (as invisible cats are - not as demanding as their real-life counterparts, for sure!) and at first Squishy is welcome at home. But then things go awry. Squishy is not beyond a bit of mischievous behaviour and soon Squishy starts to cause havoc, and Ava is always very quick to point out that Squishy is to blame - not her!

It takes a rather understanding and dapper 100 year old, Great Grandad Bill, to point out to Ava that Squishy should learn to comport himself as an elegant feline not a moggy miscreant. After all, it's not very cat-like to draw on walls with felt tips, or trash the house on a regular basis.

Charlotte is beginning to demand heftier literary fare and Squishy McFluff joins the ranks of early chapter readers that she's really taken to like a duck to water (or indeed, an invisible cat to an invisible plate of invisible tuna). The format (largely illustrated with plenty of interesting text) is nicely sized and Charlotte loves sneaking off with the book to read bits on her own (and laugh out loud at Squishy's rather naughty antics).

Dealing with a delicate subject isn't easy, this book not only manages to intricately describe Ava's imaginary friendship but also it lovingly pays tribute to our elders too. Great Grandad Bill (whose real-life counterpart receives a well-deserved dedication at the start of the book) is wise and level headed. Not too shabby for a centenarian.

What a gorgeous and thoroughly entertaining book, truly!

Charlotte's best bit: Of course, it has to be the bit where Mum thinks she's stroking Squishy's ears when really she's lovingly stroking his bum (Charlotte read the book before I could sit down and read it with her and I could hear her delighted cackle of laughter right from the other end of the house!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: A very nice treatment on the "imaginary friend" - sensitively and delicately told, and marvellous to read out loud thanks to tight and flowing rhymes. So glad to see that the next book, "Supermarket Sweep" is on the way.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Faber and Faber)