Red House Children’s Book Award blog tour: Jennifer Gray

Holly and I are very honoured that the Federation of Children’s Book Groups asked us to host a post on the Red House Children’s Book Award blog tour, running from 21 October till 5 November 2013.

The award is sponsored by Red House and it’s very special because all the winners are voted for entirely by children. To find out more about how you can vote for your favourites, please see the end of this post.

Childtastic Books was picked to host one of the titles in the Younger Readers category and we were over the moon when we discovered our book would be Atticus Claw Breaks the Law by Jennifer Gray.


Atticus Claw Breaks the Law, by Jennifer Gray
Atticus Claw Breaks the Law, by Jennifer Gray


Holly recently read this book and totally loved it and can’t wait to read about his further adventures!

In the meantime, we will hand you over to Ms Gray, who talks about the unique place cats have in children’s literature, and offers a very unique poem written by Atticus.


Feline Characters in Literature

I love cats. As well as the real thing I’m a sucker for cat mugs, cat T-towels, cat stickers, cat posters and birthday cards with pictures of cats wearing funny hats. Best of all I love books about cats. Cats get about. They’re independent, clever and gorgeous looking.  They can be stand-offish or affectionate. One minute they’re snuggled up on the sofa, purring, the next they’re out on the tiles with their mates. They’re complicated, which is why they’re fun to write about and have such a great tradition in children’s fiction and verse.

My own cat character, Atticus Claw, has had a very busy year. Arriving in Littleton-on-Sea from Monte Carlo as the world’s greatest cat burglar only twelve short months ago, he has since travelled to London to meet the Queen and from there to the desert sands of Egypt, where he grappled with an ancient Egyptian cat pharaoh.  (All totally plausible if you know cats.) Atticus is, by any standard, a well-travelled feline. Interestingly he shares this characteristic with other literary cat giants. Orlando gets about a bit. Poor Gobbolino – a tabby like Atticus, but with one white sock instead of four – journeys far and endures many hardships before he finally finds a home. Skimbleshanks likes to take charge on the Midnight Mail train and the evil Growltiger patrols the Thames on a barge.

Nor is Atticus the only criminal cat at large. There’s the infamous Macavity, also known as the Hidden Paw, who is conspicuous by his absence at the scene of any crime and, like Atticus in his old cat-burgling days, brilliant at giving the cops the slip. Atticus is also very keen on his creature comforts when he’s not at having adventures (and sometimes when he is), which puts me in mind of the gentle Mog – a lovely family cat who will come to the rescue if pressed but would prefer to have a quiet time of it.

The reason there are so many brilliant poems about cats is partly because ‘cat’ rhymes with lots of other things, like ‘hat’ for instance, as Dr Seuss quickly recognized. Cats also lend themselves to rhyming names like Tabby McTatt and Slinki Malinki (not to mention Atticus Grammaticus Cattypuss Claw). They can even be invisible, such as the soon-to-hit-the-shelves Squishy McFluff. In fact there’s nothing in verse or prose cats can’t do. On the contrary they have a cat-do attitude (groan!). So, inspired by the legacy of literary heavyweights such as Lewis Carroll with The Owl and the Pussycat and, yes, even the great TS Eliot with the cat psychology bible, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, here, in celebration of cats in literature, on mugs, T-shirts, stickers, posters, birthday cards and in general, is a poem about Atticus by … Atticus.


Thoughts on My Past and Present

By Atticus Claw

In the style of TS Eliot (or nearly)


When I think about cats, it makes me go bats,

(Not really it’s just cos it rhymes)

I actually reckon they’re better than Beckham

At football and, of course, crime.


I’m Atticus Claw, and I break the law,

More precisely at any rate, did,

The world’s greatest burglar, I’m nice, not a murderer,

I wanted a home with the kids.


I got a rude note from some magpies who wrote

“Steal the loot in the town and we’ll pay”,

Thug, Jimmy and Slasher, I don’t like their chatter,

But sardines are sardines any day.


It was then I smelt fish – completely delish,

It was coming from this lady’s basket,

The smell was so pleasant at 2 Blossom Crescent,

I realized I couldn’t outlast it.


The kids gave me treats and cuddles and meat,

The problem, it lay with their dad,

He was a policeman, although not a good one,

In fact he was really quite bad.


I broke into houses and stole people’s trousers,

Not really – their watches and silver and jewels,

The magpies were glad, but me, I felt sad,

The Inspector, he looked like a fool.


I went to the pier, ignored Jimmy’s sneer:

Told the birdies to take back the swag,

But while I was napping the mapgies were flapping,

They framed me and cackled and bragged.


Callie and Mick broke me out of the nick,

(That’s Michael and prison in short),

We rushed to the scene where Jimmy – the fiend,

To his army was just holding court.


I can’t tell you what happened without getting flattened,

For giving the story away,

Of course I survived – cats have nine lives

For more exciting adventures each day.


Atticus Law Breaks the Law has been shortlisted in the younger readers category of the Red House Children’s Book Award 2014. The Red House Children’s Book Award is the only national children’s book award voted for entirely by children. It is owned and co-ordinated by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups, and sponsored by Red House.


Voting for the Red House Children’s Book Award 2014 is open until 24 January 2014 and your child can pick their favourites by visiting the Award’s special website so please do encourage them to get involved! The three categories are Younger Children, Younger Readers and Older Readers.


Useful links:
The Federation of Children’s Book Groups:
Red House Children’s Book Award
Faber – which publishes Atticus Claw Breaks the Law




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