Returning to an old favourite

Over half-term, as well as updating the library ‘look’ I also bought some new books for the children. Most of them were new releases but I did buy three titles that we didn’t have in the library from one of my favourite authors and illustrators: Judith Kerr who, as many of you will know, created the gorgeous character Mog. The three books I purchased were: When Willy Went to the Wedding, Mog and the Baby and Mog’s Bad Thing. The first one doesn’t mention Mog in the title but if you look closely on the cover page, and inside the book, you will see a mother cat who is the spitting image of her eponymous feline.

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In When Willy Went to the Wedding, we have a humorous insight not only into the main plot of the book (Willy wants to take all his pets to his sister’s wedding but no one is having any of it) but also how much simpler weddings were when the book was published in 1972. His sister walks down the road to the local church in her wedding dress and they all go back home afterwards for cake, champagne and sandwiches. And Uncle Fred takes the pictures with his, er, very old-fashioned camera. Far more affordable! The trouble is that the pets, feeling left out of the fun, decide to follow the wedding procession, so that there is a procession of cats inside the church and an overeager dog outside.

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It all goes rather haywire, as you can imagine, but good old Bruce, the bridegroom, steps in at various intervals to help Willy. When I asked the children if they would like pets at their wedding, there was nearly a resounding yes – only one girl was adamant that that was NOT to happen at hers because it was a very bad idea.

In Mog’s Bad Thing, Mog’s family are going to host a cat show in their garden, in a special marquee provided by Mr Bunce, the local pet-shop owner. The problem is, Mog doesn’t understand what marquees are and, when she wakes up from a very long sleep, and looks outside to check her lavatory is still in its usual place behind her favourite tree, she is horrified to see a ‘flappy-floppy’ thing waving around in the dark. She’s desperate … but she’s also very scared so she does the only thing she can do. A very bad thing, right in Mr Thomas’s chair. Needless to say, he is less than happy the next morning when he finds her ‘present’, and Mog hides upstairs in the attic.

Meanwhile, all the cats and owners arrive for the cat show, and everyone is wondering where on earth Mog has got to. When Mr Bunce says he’s sure she will turn up and surprise them all, he couldn’t be more right.

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I just love the look of horror on Mog’s face in the cover picture!

The children couldn’t guess at all what ‘the bad thing’ was from the title. Perhaps she’d caught a mouse? Killed a bird? Scratched or bitten someone? No, they were describing my two naughty moggies, Lily and Archie. They also didn’t know what a lavatory was, so they learned a new word at least. They loved the revelation of what Mog did on Mr Thomas’s chair, though it’s never made explicit which of the bad things it could have been. Perhaps best left that way out of decorum.

Finally, in Mog and the Baby, Mog has to endure a visit from a baby who screams and screams til it sees Mog, and then it says ‘Psss’. Mog as you might guess is not too keen on the baby, despite Mrs Thomas’s repeated assurances that ‘Mog loves babies’, and tries everything to get out of its way. I love how in this book Kerr’s illustrations contradict her words – they’re perfect opposites and are so comedic. In fact, this is true of all the titles here and in her other books too. She has a particular talent for understated comedy, with much of it coming from Mog’s expressions and body language. Just look at how happy Mog is facially and physically while playing with Nicky here:

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And her utter look of disgust when the baby is around:

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Oh dear – those eyes! Rolled right up!

In the end, though, an incident happens that unites everyone and, as usual in the Mog books, she becomes the heroine of the story. Though I must admit the event that occurs is something that would horrify health and safety officials throughout the country.

It’s been such a pleasure reading these treasures with the children this week, hearing their giggles and watching their delight. Even if some of the details of everyday life have changed somewhat (technology, wedding budgets, risk assessments) – and not necessarily for the better – there is a timeless quality in her humour and her exploration of everyday life and people and pets. I will never tire of reading these classics and I hope the children will also carry them forward into their future and enjoy them as much as I do when they have children of their own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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