Experience a humorous and very different kind of cat story with Paris Cat!
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Before I saw the notes at the end of the book, the flamboyant cat displayed on the cover image immediately brought Josephine Baker to mind. Then the opening endpapers display a double spread map of Paris, showing the location of many famous buildings and, of immense interest to a cat, ‘les Poissoneries’. Even before the first opening spread, I have a sense of the book and I feel sure that I’m about to experience a humorous and very different kind of cat story.
This is a charming book. It will appeal to children and to their read-alouders and book-sharers. On the surface we have an amusing story of a sassy Parisienne cat who leaves home and embarks a series of adventures. Through Hofmeyr’s rich text and Grobler’s quirky multimedia illustrations, we are given a glimpse into 1920’s Paris nightlife and introduced to singer Edith Piaf and dancer Josephine Baker – two iconic performers of the era, both of whom found fame despite their poverty- stricken and troubled early lives. We learn about café culture – we see the drinks, the décor and the clientele. We get to visit the atelier of a couturière, and we learn the vocabulary of some gorgeous fabrics – silk, satin, tulle, taffeta, velvet and voile. We get a sense of the architecture and the geography of the city. We learn some exclamations like Voilà and how to be disdainful with a very French ‘Pffh’!
But it is about far more. We see a character with a strong sense of her own individuality, who feels she is wasting her talents. She wants to shed her poor beginnings and escape the narrow back alley life where she has to vie with a large family tribe for her share of the fish scraps. Through grit, determination and strong self-belief, she elevates herself to fame and fortune. But is that enough? I won’t give away the ending, but Cat resolves her dilemma beautifully.
In the classroom, this book could provide an opportunity to discuss celebrity status, career and financial success, alongside the importance of home and roots, family and friends. With older children, it might serve to start them thinking and talking about the pressures on female performers in popular culture.
Reviewed by Mary Roche
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
Mary Roche PhD is author of ‘Developing Children’s Critical Thinking through Picturebooks’ (Routledge 2015). She confesses to being a complete bookworm with a passion for good picturebooks. You can follow Mary on Twitter @marygtroche
- Read: The Sunday Times says Paris Cat is one to watch out for!
- Watch: Step inside Piet Grobler’s art studio!
- Watch: Create your own shadow puppet theatre with Dianne Hofmeyr!
- Read: Paris Cat is vivacious with plenty to enjoy! – Herts for Learning
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