|The Time-travelling Cat and the Great Victorian Stink by Julia Jarman|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A very enjoyable caper with a young lad in Victorian London trying to prevent a murder, with the help of a 21st century cat.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 176||Date: August 2010|
|Publisher: Andersen Press Ltd|
Consider cats. Normally they like to leave you things like poop, and dead animals, generally in the middle of the kitchen floor. Topher's cat leaves himself a stone statue version of himself when he decides to time travel to some past time of history. I know - odd. I can also introduce you to a very different Topher, one just escaped from the workhouse in Victorian London - if only he could escape the stench of the open sewers in London, and the hunger in his stomach just as easily. Well, I could - but actually they are the same person, just with a completely different mind. When our Topher travels through time as well - on the back of a bird - he finds himself in the person of the second, historical lad. Will that homework project about Victorian history be enough to help him out, and perhaps prevent a nasty crime or two?
I know that summary sounds completely offball and weird, but one of the great things about this book is that it all makes logical sense. Yes, you have to stretch your imagination a little - but as an adult that is only to get your head round the hallucinogenic mish-mash of Dickensian cliches and more that pepper the adventure. The child reader - the 8-12 aged child, at a rough guess - will easily be able to believe in the reincarnated Egyptian god that is Ka the cat, and the fact that Topher can end up in the 1850s, just at the time of London trying to civilise itself with those revolutionary sewers and so on.
(I always like the historical quirk that has one Bazalgette remove London's poop from itself, and his great-great-grandson give us "Big Brother"... But I digress.)
There is a small sense that this book is designed to forcefeed us a little Victorian spirit and history, much like some of the adults in these pages. But I'm confident that won't be noticed. You're completely involved with Topher as he is forced to stay on his ever-starving toes throughout this adventure, seeing all sorts of details about London and her criminality, and - as he's not exactly his modern counterpart - learning anew just what his friendship with the cat might lead to.
Eventually, it will lead him into the very London sewers, and I have long since lost count of how many books have done the same. But this is still an enjoyable little tome. It's perfectly self-contained, so one needn't have read any of the other five. But I would not object if you were to - we at the Bookbag generally find Julia Jarman's picture books well worth a look, and this is more than that. It's an evocative, pacey and educative adventure, and we have to recommend it.
I must thank Andersen Press's kind people for my review copy.
Candle Man by Glenn Dakin is one of the afore-mentioned sewer books, but is a lot scarier than this, so be warned.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Time-travelling Cat and the Great Victorian Stink by Julia Jarman at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Time-travelling Cat and the Great Victorian Stink by Julia Jarman at Amazon.com.
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