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A Kitten Called Moonlight

“I’d like my story again,” Charlotte said.

“Which story?” asked Mummy.

“The one I like best, about Moonlight and me,” Charlotte said.

“I thought that’s the one it might be,” Mummy said.

A Kitten Called Moonlight tells the story of how Charlotte and her Mummy found their kitten.  Charlotte sees the kitten’s eyes shining in the dark one night as she comes home from a party, and asks her mother to help her find it.  But her Mummy doesn’t believe her and hurries her indoors to bed.  Later she finds Charlotte sitting and gazing out at the shore, still insisting that something is out there.  To help put her mind at rest, Charlotte’s Mummy suggests they go out and look on the beach, and see if they can see anything.  Of course there is something there – a tiny white kitten, shivering on the rocks.  Charlotte and her Mummy rescue him, and the little girl carries him all the way home.

This is a very sweet book, told in an unusual way.  The story is their own, and so it is partly narrated by Charlotte and her mother, although still in the third person.  In addition the omniscient narrator describes their talk and how they interact with each other in the telling of the story.   This gives the written story the flavour of an oral one, which is surprisingly effective.

“Something like that,” Mummy said.  “Her Mummy searched all over the house.”

“I like this bit,” Charlotte said.

The style is simple and clear, and well-pitched.  Including Charlotte’s voice gives it the language of a young child and makes this a very accessible story.  However, reading this one as an adult improves with practice, as the complex narrative structure means that it can be easy to misunderstand who is talking sometimes.  It needs clearly distinct voices for Mummy, Charlotte and the narration.

Christian Birmingham’s pastel drawings are detailed and realistic, and the delicate white kitten glows brightly on the page.  The scale, too, of the tiny animal and the boats and rocks that surround it, complements the text well.  His pictures of Charlotte are full of character; there is a particularly wonderful page where she catches sight of the kitten from the car window and her eyes are wide with surprise and wonder.

The book shows the intimacy of the relationship between mother and daughter.  Although she doesn’t really believe her, Charlotte’s mother is willing to take her down to the shore to make sure that there really is nothing there.  Small children will love seeing that Charlotte was right after all.  There is a selflessness in going out at night to rescue the kitten which is also a valuable lesson. It is probably a book that will appeal more to girls than boys, but all cat-lovers may be interested.  The calm, measured tone makes it an ideal bedtime story.

A little sentimental, perhaps, but a heartwarming and carefully told story made visually striking by quality of the illustrations.  Worth a look, particularly for girls of around three to five years old who like animals.

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Owl Babies

Three baby owls – Sarah, Percy and Bill – wake up one night to discover that their Owl Mother has gone.  They think very hard (“all owls think a lot”) but can’t decide where she may have gone to.  As time passes, they become very nervous about what may have happened to her.  They huddle together on the same branch (looking rather fluffy and cute) and wish.  And of course, because this is a picture book and a fox would not be allowed to eat Mother Owl, she comes home.

This is a ‘nice’ book.   There is a lovely lilt to Martin Waddell’s text – “soft and silent, she swooped through the trees to Sarah and Percy and Bill” –  and some effective patterns in the structure.  Each time they talk, Sarah says one thing, Percy says another, and Bill says “I want my Mummy!”.  Young children will enjoy the repetition and will especially like the joyful reunion at the end: “Mummy!” they cried, and they flapped and they danced and they bounced up and down on their branch.” The illustrations (by Patrick Benson) are quite realistic and detailed and the fuzzy little owls fill most of each page.

Because of the theme of separation and reunion it might be a good choice to read to a young child before they go to nursery or preschool for the first time.  The book has a celebratory feel to it at the end, after the owls’ worried little vigil.  It is a sweet book with a positive message and although it is not especially clever or memorable, it does have a certain charm.