The Cat, the Mouse and the Runaway Train

5 Aug

You know you’re in for a great read when you open a book to this:

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Look at the detail. The gears, the cogs, the tiny clock hands, the mouse in the midst of it all.

You spotted the cat, right? ….I’ll just wait here while you have another look.

See! Now that is an endpaper. It tells us everything we need to know about this book. It suggests themes of time and rivalry between cat and mouse. It creates a sense of mystery and drama. We’re in!

The Cat, the Mouse and the Runaway Train by Peter Bently and Steve Cox is an adventure of a story, full of action and excitement. We are introduced to the skittery-scattery mouse who lives in the stationmaster’s house and Carruthers the station cat. Immediately we know what their worlds revolve around. The mouse is eyeing up the cheese and the cat is eyeing up the mouse. We are expecting a traditional mouse chase. But hold on, the cat has barely made his move when the mouse is unexpectedly snapped up in the stationmaster’s trap. The stationmaster puts the unlucky mouse in a box and packs her off for the ten o’clock train. (Yes! HER! The mouse is FEMALE! And she gets to be a bit of a hero too.)

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So now the scene is set. Our mouse is in a box on her way to Timbuktu on the 10 o’clock train, the cat is feeling smug and the stationmaster is confident and in control with his pocket watch at the ready and all the luggage neatly stacked to go. The book has been building up to this. The clocks appearing everywhere on every page, the typeface enhancing all the action and building the pace and tension. We are OFF!

And this is where it gets reallyexciting. The mouse escapes, the cat gives chase, they race across the railway tracks… Almost- a tail is stuck… And Oh no! here comes the train speeding along… The brakes aren’t working!! It can’t stop!

We are raced through the pages by the rhythm of the text as we hold on to the edge of our seats and grip our knickers. This is the page that sums up the book for me:

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A brilliant montage that brings the characters and elements of the plot together in a very cinematic way. Can’t you just hear the soundtrack? I love the repeated inset images of the stationmasters pocket watch throughout the book, quietly showing us how close to peril we really are! This book is one of those beautiful matches where the author and illustrator fit perfectly and truly enhance each other’s work. One would be significantly less without the other.

There are a handful of authors who can really do rhyming text well. I always feel in safe hands when reading their books. Julia Donaldson, Caryl Hart, Tracey Corderoy, Peter Bently. They have a way with words and rhythm that bring a text to life, make it more, rather than force it into a rhyme. Peter Bently has done a beautiful job of pacing this text and using exactly the right words in the right place to enhance the action. The text never feels stilted or awkward, actually, you are so engrossed in the adventure you forget that there is any text.

This is a book that children will really enjoy. I think they will relish the thrills and spills of the text, and the illustrations are crammed full of things to identify and look at. I particularly enjoyed the stationmaster’s sweet tooth! It’s a book that will give children’s sense of adventure a boost up the bottom and give them the opportunity to hear what language can achieve when in the hands of an expert.

I approve of this book wholeheartedly and have popped it straight to the top of the pile to share with the Rainbow Library children in September.

Source: Kindly sent for review by Hodder Children’s books.

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