Tag Archives: family

Mog the Forgetful Cat

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I think the Judith-Kerr-reading-world can be split into those who love Mog and those who love The Tiger Who Came to Tea. My sister always dreamed of tea parties with a tiger whereas I am firmly in the Mog camp. The books are so cleverly written with such humour and Mog is the perfect unintentional heroine.

For those who don’t know, Mog is a cat owned by the Thomas family. She has modest aims in life (to eat eggs, to chase birds) yet through a series of coincidences she somehow ends up saving the family from calamity (often calamities of her own making) and being labelled a hero.

There is a touching domesticity to the Mog books with glimpses of the reality of family life (the peas meant for dinner spilt on the floor, the crumpled window-box flowers.) Kerr based the Thomas’s on her own family. Thomas is her husband’s first name, the children are called Debbie and Nicky – Kerr’s own children’s middle names, and the house is based on Kerr’s family home in London.

Despite her obvious foibles Mog is a character with whom children can empathise. When she is feeling persecuted she runs out of the house and into the garden where she ‘sat in the dark and thought dark thoughts.’ What a perfectly concise way to capture that sense of wanting to run away and hide when emotions become too much.

The book is written with such a clever use of dramatic irony. Kerr’s turn of phrase transforms Mog’s forgetfulness into being truly hilarious. And it contains one of the best scenes in children’s literature. At the end of the story (*spoiler*) the burglar is seen being arrested by the policeman, but not before he’s finished having a cup of tea with the family. Redemption for all.

Heroine rating: 3/5

Once There Were Giants

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I challenge any adult to read Giants without getting a little tearful. It is a celebration of the everyday domestic life which is so often overlooked in literature and yet is the joy of having a family.

The book follows a girl from when she is a baby on the rug (and the adults around her seem like giants), to crawling, walking, going to playgroup and then school, getting married and then finally having her own little girl. I was given this book when my son was only a few weeks old and it is a joy to read it with him as he grows up and in turn achieves these different milestones. (At point of writing he’s almost walking to the park to be ‘the one in the duck pond’, but not quite.)

What gives this book top heroine rating is that the main character isn’t perfect. Like all children she does naughty things (‘I called people names and upset the water on Millie Magee’) and she fights with her older brother (‘I got big and strong and punched my brother John.’)

Reading an interview with the author, Martin Waddell, it comes as no surprise that he grew up amongst interesting women (his mother and aunt were actresses) as the female characters in this story are right in the centre of the tale. He also says that he aims to write great dramas in a way which relates to pre-schoolers (Hamlet for four-year-olds) which explains why Giants has the feel of an epic family saga crammed into 24 pages.

Heroine rating 5/5