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Mr Pusskins and Little Whiskers

This is the second of Sam Lloyd’s Mr Pusskins books.  Having learned his lesson and realised that his life with Emily is something to be treasured, Mr Pusskins is not quite prepared for a new challenge in the shape of Little Whiskers.

Life for Emily and Mr Pusskins is perfect. They are very happy together and Mr Pusskins is especially excited when Emily announces that she has a fabulous surprise for him.  He is less excited, however, when the contents of the enormous box turns out to be a small, white kitten.

Little Whiskers makes Mr Pusskins’ life miserable.  She ruins telly time, meal time, nap time – you name it, she interferes with it.  The final straw comes when she starts dancing on the piano in the middle of the night – and Mr Pusskins gets blamed.  What can Mr Pusskins do to get rid of the pesky kitten?  And will her conscience get the better of her?

Mr Pusskins is a great character and Sam Lloyd’s illustrations convey his personality with style and humour.  By turns perplexed, horrified, angry and distressed, he goes through all the emotions you would naturally associate with welcoming a troublesome new addition into the family: Mr Pusskins and Little Whiskers is in fact a well-disguised new baby book.  The presence of Little Whiskers destabilises Mr Pusskins’ entire existence; not only are his favourite times interrupted and disrupted but his very position in the household is threatened when he is mistakenly banished outside and Little Whiskers steals his place by the fire.  This is an honest and probably therapeutic look at what happens to a young child when they are no longer the only one.  Mr Pusskins’ bewilderment at being asked to look after and play with someone who causes him so much grief will no doubt be familiar to frustrated 2 and 3 year olds.  They may be unable to articulate their feelings but the book permits those emotions and acknowledges them, rather than pretending that this lifechanging event is an unimitigated pleasure.  Older children will identify with the unwanted responsibilty they may feel as a new big brother or sister.  In the end, apologies and forgiveness are exchanged and Mr Pusskins shows us it is possible to make a successful transition from two to three people.

A clever, funny and engaging story; one to give to and enjoy with newly appointed big brothers and sisters.

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Mr Pusskins

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!