Imaginative play with the owl and the pussycat

I love picture books that inspire children’s imagination. I love it when a book echoes children’s play and suggests ways for them to explore a story and create their own adventures. The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat by Coral Rumble and Charlotte Cooke (WackyBee Books) is a delicious re-imagining of the well-known rhyme and does exactly that. It shows two children fully immersed in imaginary play – and inspires the reader to re-create their adventure.

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‘The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea, in a box on the living room floor. They sailed away for a year and a day and these are the things that they saw… Join two curious children on a quirky adventure, loosely based on the classic Edward Lear poem, The Owl and the Pussycat​.​

‘The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea, in a box on the living room floor,’
Yes! Brilliant! I love that the first lines bring the reader straight in to the adventure, twisting the original rhyme and placing it firmly in children’s imaginary space. Like the best inspiration for imaginary play, the illustrations show ordinary items used to create an extraordinary adventure. A cardboard box and a pair of pants (great touch) create a beautiful ship for the children to sail away on and the children are transformed into an owl and a cat by face paint and feathers.

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Note that Charlotte Cooke chose to draw a trail of cardboard cut-outs and paint spills behind them. This spread says firmly ‘look! They created this. They *are* the Owl and the Pussycat and they *have* sailed away. You could do that!’ I love it! In one double spread this book creates an adventure, invites the reader to join in and suggests that the reader could create their own adventure in turn. Nice work.

The book goes on to show all the amazing things the children see on their travels. Each page is like an inspiration sheet- a snapshot of a story. The text itself in this middle section is very short and each page stands alone. This means you can take your time, discuss the illustrations and characters and tell your own story around what you see on the page. All without breaking the flow of the story. The illustrations are so full of detail and humorous additions that children can spend a long time talking about what they see and imagining their own stories around the pictures. This level of detail makes the book relevant and accessible to a wide range of ages. Very young children will enjoy the gentle rhyme of the story and older children will enjoy the humour and the huge potential for their own input.

The icing on the cake is leaving the adventure with the children walking in to ‘a cave on the shore with a green seaweed door’ – what is inside the cave? Where does it go? Does it take them back home? Leaving children with such a wonderful springboard for their own stories is a genius touch.

And then… the cherry and chocolate sprinkles on the icing on the cake is the very last spread where we see the children back home on the living room floor, fast asleep with their cardboard box ship, surrounded by the objects they used for their adventures. Beautifully bringing the book back round to where we started and a quick reminder to the reader that the amazing adventure they just experienced all came from these objects. A gentle nudge to pick up their own items and start their own story. Perfect!

A lovely book to share with children who love creating their own adventures, this would be the perfect book to share with children in a nursery or reception class – with a nice big box of junk modelling resources to hand. Bravo to all involved.

You can get your copy here.

Source – kindly sent for review as part of the blog tour.

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