Even the front cover of this book is funny: the scowling, scruffy animal on the front in no way looks like a ‘Mr Pusskins’ and you certainly don’t expect ‘a love story’!
“This is the story of a little girl called Emily, and her dear cat, Mr Pusskins…” Emily loves Mr Pusskins very, very much. She reads him stories, plays games with him, cuddles him and brushes him. Mr Pusskins has everything a cat should be grateful for. However, he is not in the least grateful. “Blah blah blah – the girl’s constant babbling bored his whiskers off. He wanted more than this dull life.” So the discontented feline decides to leave. He falls in with a bad crowd, the Pesky Cat Gang, and spends his days and nights raiding dustbins, causing havoc, and caterwauling unpleasantly from the top of a wall. He is having a whale of a time.
Then the rain starts to fall, and the wind starts to blow, and Mr Pusskins realises how nice it would be to have someone to brush his fur, and to love him. He finds his own ‘Missing’ poster and sees what a bad-tempered cat he looked. “Emily had given him everything a cat could ever dream of, but he had never been nice to her. How sorry he felt.” On a wonderful double-page spread we can see just how sorry Mr Pusskins feels. He finds a phone, and dials a number – but will he and Emily ever be reunited?
Mr Pusskins is a metaphor for the hard-done-by young child who threatens to run away, and as such the story provides a wonderful lesson in appreciating what you have. It is packed full of opportunities for discussion: why does Mr Pusskins run away? How do you think Emily felt when he had gone? Do you think the Pesky Cat Gang are a good influence? Does Emily love Mr Pusskins even after he ran away? The tension is built up beautifully in preparation for the ending and you will be pleased to hear that of course, Mr Pusskins and Emily live happily ever after together.
The illustrations are hugely expressive and the text is fluent and well-written, with plenty of humour. No surprise then that Mr Pusskins won the Booktrust Early Years Award, was shortlisted for the V&A Illustration Award and is a New York Times Bestseller. There are now a couple of sequels (Mr Pusskins and Little Whiskers and Mr Pusskins Best in Show) as well as several educational books including Feelings, Opposites, Numbers and Colours.
Definitely one for the bookshelf. And watch out for reviews of more of Sam Lloyd’s books!