Atticus Claw Breaks the Law by Jennifer Gray

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Atticus Claw Breaks the Law by Jennifer Gray

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: The talent seems on show more in the plot than in the realism, but this tale of a cat burglar – and his magpie accomplices – is intelligent enough to provide a surprising read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: September 2012
Publisher: Faber and Faber
ISBN: 9780571284498

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Meet the new criminal gang in town – three evil, thieving magpies, led by the vicious Jimmy, and Atticus Claw, the greatest cat burglar. Together they are on a mission to rob the entire town of all its jewellery, watches and other shiny valuables. To help him rest up between missions Atticus has decided to live right at the centre of the action – the parents of the children who adopt him are in turns the local police officer, and the woman charged with running a luxurious Antiques Roadshow-styled affair at the local manor house. There will be bling, there will be sardines as a reward for Atticus – and with the animals' inside information on the roadshow, nothing can go wrong – can it?

The opening book in this series is a sprightly little read for the under-twelves. Atticus is a cute cat, allowing himself to expose his tummy for lots of purring rubs when he's with his humans, while very smart and at times with quite a nasty side when faced with magpies telling him what to do. He certainly seems at times to be a bit smarter than some of the humans – humans the magpies realise are the evilest creatures around, and who deserve taking down a peg or two. The unlikely crew of burglars is a whimsical enough collection of animals for the target audience.

For the adult, of course, there is a little too much anthropomorphism. This is a world where magpies can talk to cats, and only part of the time do they hear the typical Chaka-chaka-chaka noise. This is a world where a cat can even unpick safe locks with his claws, so don't go looking for too much realism. If the writing was a bit more engaging and immersive the book would come across more visually to the reader as a knockabout animation film – certainly, the sparring magpies are entertaining enough comedy side characters, and the action could be imagined as a cartoon or CGI piece.

So while it's not quite as involving as the best of reads for this audience, it does certainly remain on the clever side. I have, of course, left out the main plot twists and turns – ones hinted at in the blurb – and without giving anything anyway the progression of the story does take the reader most smartly to a very different place to where we started. And when you consider the faults, if any, lie in the huge pinches of salt you have to take to cope with the lapses in common-sense realism, and that they'd be forgiven much more readily given the age of the intended reader, the verdict has to be that this is worth perusal. Callie and Michael, the children, come across well, as do the parents taking their places in the story, and Atticus and Jimmy are enjoyable inventions. So while as unlikely as it all seems, this amusing little tale with its talented plotting heralds a series worth keeping an eye out for.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

The Time-travelling Cat and the Great Victorian Stink by Julia Jarman is but one part of a large series that seemed on that evidence to be one of the best out there, especially for moggy-lovers. We've also enjoyed Atticus Claw Hears a Roar by Jennifer Gray.

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Buy Atticus Claw Breaks the Law by Jennifer Gray at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Atticus Claw Breaks the Law by Jennifer Gray at


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