If you have young children and are not already familiar with the name Julia Donaldson then I’m sure it won’t be long before you are acquainted. The ever popular author of ‘The Gruffalo’ and the 2011–2013 Children’s Laureate claims more titles on our bookshelf at home than any other writer, including the great Enid Blyton. Her books are poetic joys that enthral both adults and children alike.
Okay, perhaps I am being a little over enthusiastic! While most of her tales are truly fabulous, one or two do give me that dreadful sinking feeling. You know the one, when your child reaches for the same book night after night and you simply can’t bear the thought of reading it again. (‘The Smartest Giant’ fills me with despair every time I see it!)
But I’m not talking about the books we don’t enjoy, I’m talking about our favourites and there is no doubt that Tabby McTat is the Julia Donaldson book of choice in our house. My five year old loved it for close on three years and still tries to peek over my shoulder when I’m reading it to my younger son.
Tabby McTat is a scruffy but tuneful moggy who belongs to Fred, the busker. The two of them happily earn their living singing of ‘this and that’ as ‘people throw coins in the old checked hat’ in a busy city square. One day an unfortunate incident separates Fred from Tabby McTat and the musical moggy is left heartbroken and homeless. What follows is the tale of McTat finding himself a wife and a new family and indeed ‘plenty of things to do’ now he isn’t busking any more. However, eventually he realises something is missing from his perfect new life and goes off in search of his old friend Fred.
The book always reminds me of the wily tom cats we had while I was growing up. Goodness knows what adventures they got up to when they stayed out all night! If cats are part of your family then the story is all the more charming.
‘Tabby McTat’ is an engaging tale and is completely brought to life by the wonderful drawings of Axel Scheffler. Each page is full of the tiniest details and has so much to look at. If my two year old begins to lose interest (it’s quite long for younger children) then the pictures help carry the story through to the end. And, as ever, it’s fun to search for the hidden Gruffalo that Scheffler sneaks among the pages of so many of his and Donaldson’s collaborations. The illustrations also truly reflect a big city. The people drawn in the story are from all walks of life, all ages and all backgrounds. You can spend ages just looking at the pictures, which makes it a great way to introduce the book to younger children.
As an adult who has read ‘Tabby McTat’ countless times I really appreciate the beautiful rhyme and poetry Donaldson has become synonymous with and the book flows beautifully. It is as lovely to read as it is for children to listen to – and let’s face it, that is a huge bonus with children’s books!
So whether you’re already a fan of ‘The Gruffalo’ or haven’t yet ventured into Julia Donaldson’s lyrical, melodic world then I can strongly recommend ‘Tabby McTat’. A charming story, beautifully illustrated and suitable from around two years upwards. Now I just need to get those catchy rhymes out of my head!