Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 08 Jan 2024

I Really Want To Be A Cat by Helen Hancocks

My grand-daughter went through a phase of crawling about like a cat and purring in a contented fashion between the ages of four and six, so I was intrigued to see how this story would play out.

The cover shows a pink-haired young girl wearing glasses lying beside a suspicious looking cat, who is perhaps concerned that she wants to steal what looks like a toy mouse. I liked the stylised white drawings against a beige background on the end papers at the beginning and end of the book which aptly show the many different ways in which a cat can position itself with a range of stretches – being feline lends itself to tremendous agility. I can see how these could be used with children to emphasise this and to challenge their own flexibility. 

The story has a pleasing design with uncluttered strong illustrations on every page which show the girl addressing the cat directly as a friend. She clearly envies his ability to do ‘whatever you want. Even if it’s … NOTHING.’ She matches his curls, stretches and sneaking positions and enjoys playing at hide and seek.

Every page layout is a bit different but I particularly liked those where she praises the cat's ability to see in the dark, whereas she needs to hold a torch. Both have round eyes as they stare at one another, hers exaggerated by her huge glasses. 

As the story unfolds, she realises that she can’t do everything as easily as the cat can and when she follows him into the garden, she is impressed at his adventurous and independent spirit. He can come and go as he pleases and doesn’t even have to worry about table manners. Despite her overall admiration, I will leave you to find out which behaviour that she definitely does not want to copy!

I recommend this simple picture book with its bold illustrations that could be used with young children to talk about the qualities of cats and other animals compared to humans. It might also inspire some discussion about the special relationship between pets and their owners and why the girl is so content to spend time with a friendly creature who tolerates her intense attention. Does he enjoy this and how does he communicate without using words? I am certain that they would also enjoy using their imaginations and physical skills to move in cat- like fashion and to use the colourful drawings to create their own.       

Available now from Walker Books, you will be able to get a copy from your local independent bookshop – who will be happy to order it for you if they don’t have a copy on their shelves. 

Karen Argent

January 2024