All children, except one, want to grow up fast. I think about this (totally adapted) first line from Peter Pan every day in the school library, as readers from Foundation Stage and Key Stage One (children aged between 5 and 8), eschew picture books and red-spine-stamped early readers for ‘real books’. ‘Can we read these?’ they say, holding up a tome. They can barely stagger under the weight of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (636 pages long), or the encyclopedia they’ve dragged down from a shelf above their heads, collapsing beneath it. Of course, a librarian never says no, but rather nudges towards something more appropriate.
So it is with relief and joy that I stumble across new books such as Kitty and the Moonlight Rescue, the first in a series of six. (Number two, Kitty and the Tiger Treasure, is also published this September, with a view to getting impatient children hooked). The series follows in the tradition of Isadora Moon, Claude, Marge in Charge, Amelia Fang, Daisy and more.
Kitty wants to be like her superhero Mum, but she’s scared of the dark and doesn’t feel so brave. She dons a costume and pretends to be a superhero within the safe confines of her house. But when a desperate cat pitches up needing superhero Mum, and yet Mum is already out on a mission, Kitty must fill her shoes. Will she find her inner strength, and also her cat-inspired super powers, including feline hearing and eyesight, in order to solve the mystery of the strange noise coming from the clocktower?
This is a great example of pithy fiction for younger readers. Illustrated throughout in two-tone colour, there are enough illustrations to keep children interested, but also a bulk of text on each page to make them feel like grown-up readers. This is the age at which you want children to make reading a habit and also a passion, and so the plot needs to be pacey, the characters loveable, and the ideas sparkling.
This ticks those boxes, with add-ons. There are themes of friendship and loyalty, but there is also the building of confidence and self-worth. The parents aren’t absent – Mum, although on a mission, is the ultimate feminist superhero – out saving lives and yet also present with her children. Dad too is portrayed well. He isn’t a superhero, but also isn’t inept or bumbling. He takes care of the children, shown more in illustration than in text, but completes a great family picture, with incidental details thrown in, such as that he is the maker of Kitty’s costume.
Having a superhero with animal features is both interesting and knowledge-imparting. Kitty’s Mum can see in the dark, climb walls and balance on rooftops, and Kitty begins to inherit the same skillset. At the back of the book, the author has neatly described some super facts about cats that inspired her imagined superhero – such as their powerful sense of smell and their fast reflexes.
There’s humour too, an important feature to keep children reading, and the illustrations are fully imagined – small details abound from loose shoelaces to Kitty’s incredible bed with bookcase beneath. Which mother wouldn’t want to be depicted as a slinky catwoman in the way that Lovlie illustrates Kitty’s mother! The domestic scenes contrast well with the superhero moments – Kitty’s landing on the rooftop is expressive and daring.
With just enough adventure to offset the cosy domesticity, and more cats than one could wish for, this is a gentle, well-informed text for the age group. Purrfectly plotted. You can buy it here.