Inspiring Young Readers
Lulu Gets a Cat by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
It is always a delight to read another story about the eponymous Lulu because she is such a likeable character. In the best picture book tradition for young children, all Lulu’s adventures are domestic ones centred around family, home and the local community because we all know how exciting these everyday experiences can be. In this fifth book of the series she is becoming dissatisfied with having toy cats and now really wants to own a real one but this is a serious business requiring some very careful preparation.
More than anything else, this is a beautiful picture book that deserves looking at closely. I was lucky enough to see a preview of some of the artwork by the very talented Rosalind Beardshaw when I interviewed Anna McQuinn a few months ago. The message that shouts out from the cover is that getting a cat is pure joy, as expressed by the blissful expression on the faces of both Lulu and the animal as they cuddle together on her patchwork quilted bed. I liked the simplicity of the silhouetted cats on the end papers that contrasts with the very warm soft illustrations in the rest of the book. The first double page spread shows Lulu playing on her bed with an array of toy cats and there are also plenty of other pictorial clues to show that she is a cat lover, which I can imagine children enjoying.
As with all the series, Lulu knows that the best place to find out information about anything is via the library so she is shown making her selection of relevant cat books and then settling down at home with a healthy snack and a drink to do her research. Once she has completed this she sets about practising with one of her toy cats, carrying (and spilling) water and completing a chart about feeding, playing etc. At last her mother agrees that she is ready and off they go to the cat shelter where they meet the friendly man Jeremy who explains that she can choose one of three prospective cats. Two of them are asleep so the choice is obviously going to be the very perky saucer eyed grey one, but Lulu can’t just take it home straight away because she needs to do some further preparation using a list provided by Jeremy .
I really liked the next part of the story which shows her going to buy all the necessary equipment and pushing the shopping trolley. When she gets home she prepares a special corner behind the sofa watched approvingly by her smiling dad. It’s worth noting that the family live in a modest first floor flat with limited space which adds to its authenticity since most real children live in smallish houses and flats so making appropriate room for a pet is a big consideration.
Eventually the big day arrives and they fetch the rather anxious looking cat from the shelter. Lulu is a very good role model because she is so kind and patient as she waits for the cat to settle into her new home. She names her Makeda, after an African Queen, and soon they are firm friends, sharing toys, playing together and having great fun. Books and reading are at the heart of all the Lulu stories and so we finish with the positive double page spread back in her bedroom as she reads Makeda a story about a famous cat, Puss in Boots.
Owning and taking responsibility for a pet is a familiar situation for many young children so I suspect that this will be a very popular book. Apart from being another great story about Lulu, it is also strongly endorsed by the charity Cats Protection as helping children to understand how important it is to take care of a new cat and allow it time to settle in. My grand- daughter is just as desperate as Lulu to have a cat of her own so I will be buying this for her so that she fully understands the commitment involved!