Cat tale is quite a story
The Story of Tantrum O’Furrily — Cressida Cowell and Mark Nicholas (Hodder, $19.99) reviewed by Louise Ward, Wardini Books.
We begin this picture book with a litter of hungry kittens leaping across the city rooftops after their mother on the hunt for food. To distract her little ones the stray mother cat, Tantrum O’Furrily, tells a tale of a cat living a life of luxury. Of course she sings the story, because that is what cats do in the night.
The story within a story tells the tale of Smallpaw who belongs to Mrs Worrykin, aptly named as she keeps Smallpaw safe and cosy inside the house, with no adventures to be had and no stories to be told as “the stray cats are the story cats. The stray cats are BAD cats. They rob food out of dustbins, they steal and beg and fight with dogs”. Smallpaw tries to be a good cat but she’s bored and when Mrs Worrykin accidentally leaves the cat flap open she’s off out into the dark and dangerous night. Who should she meet but a “fine foxy animal in a bright red coat”. This charming gent is all too willing to tell Smallpaw a story and I’m sure you can guess its plot. The end of the story seems inevitable — until a stray cat leaps in with a magnificent ‘roooooooowyooowroowmeowooooooowwwww!!!’ and saves the night, the moral of the story being, a cat with courage makes her own story. What a legend! That, of course, is not the end of the story as we still have the hungry kittens on the rooftop listening to their fabulously monickered mother who turns out to be…well I’m sure you can guess.
This is everything a picture book for young children should be — full of action, story and drama with writerly attention paid to the way it reads aloud. The illustrations are alive with movement, the animals crafted to be appealingly sweet and furry in a clever palette of greys and blacks for night time shenanigans and fiery oranges and reds for the height of the action. There is a moral (kindness, bravery and friendship across social situations if we want to analyse it) and the ending ties up the dual tales beautifully.
I recommend this book for little lovers of animals, adventures and night-time escapades. Tantrum O’Furrily is the awesome hero of her own story; the kittens are impressed, and so are we.