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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Stories on Saturdays: Kaspar - Prince of Cats

Title:         Kaspar - Prince of Cats
Author:     Michael Morpurgo
Publisher:  HarperCollins
Published: Sept 2008
Genre:      Children's (historical)

Find it at Amazon UK

The Blurb says...
'I've done a picture of the ship we're sailing home on next week.  She's called the Titanic...'

They say cats have nine lives, and that's certainly true of Kaspar.  From the glamorous suites of the Savoy Hotel to the servants' quarters in the attic, and from a crowded lifeboat to the hustle and bustle of New York City, Kaspar proves that no cat is too small for big adventures.

But then this is no ordinary cat.  He's Prince Kaspar Kandinsky - the only cat to survive the sinking of the Titanic...

My verdict: A great read with lots of surprises 
(recommended for 7+ yr olds)

I've been reading this one with my 7 yr old at bedtime, and it went down a storm.  It was her first Morpurgo, and she's keen to read more.

Johnny Trott is a bellboy at the Savoy and it is his engaging voice that tells us Kaspar's (and his own) story.  We soon warmed to Johnny, whose past and feelings are interwoven effectively with his narration of the story's events.  Other characters were equally masterfully drawn, including an enigmatic Russian opera-singing Countess, a vindictive Head Housekeeper and a mischievous but warm-hearted wealthy American girl.

Period detail, especially the contrast between high and low classes of the time, is clearly-drawn and absorbing.  My daughter certainly learned a lot.  The few chapters dealing with the Titanic voyage transported us there with depictions of sounds, smells and sights and we were gripped by the account of the sinking.  The younger among us were particularly excited that the story included Things that Really Happened - although I suppose that could create confusion in some young readers, especially if they're reading alone.

What I especially appreciated about the book is its gentleness.  It deals with some fairly mature themes and concepts, yet it does so in a non-threatening and relatively comfortable way.  I don't know if my daughter would have coped well with reading it on her own, but it was a great read to share and prompted many worthwhile conversations.

So, this rates for me as a classic children's book, taking you out of reality and into someone else's experience.  And, as a bonus (and speaking as a teacher), there is additional educational value in the historical aspect of the book.

This is my first review for the Bookette's British Book Challenge.  It's not too late to sign up to review British Books in 2011 - entry closes 31st Jan.

1 comment:

  1. Yet another Morpurgo book that I really should read. I actually love the sound of this one. I would love to be a fly on the wall at the Savoy. Thanks for the shout out for the Challenge!


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