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Regular readers will be well aware of my enduring love for Chris Riddell, both as an author and an illustrator.

Riddell, Chris_Girl in Big Red Hat

His most famous work is probably alongside Paul Stewart as the co-author of The Edge Chronicles, but his work ranges far and wide, and some of my favourites of his books are the Ottoline series. Published in the same format as his award winning Goth Girl series, but published much earlier on in his writing career, there are three books, of which Ottoline and the Yellow Cat is the first.

My son recently finished reading the Timmy Failure books and needed something new to read for school. He was feeling rather dispirited and out of inspiration, so I suggested he might want to try Ottoline and the Yellow Cat. Initially he was quite disparaging of the idea, but he changed his mind about ten pages in, and has read the entire book in two days. He is now starting on the sequel.

The books are A5 sized, and nice and chunky to fit a child’s hand. They are full of amazingly detailed drawings by Riddell, many of which are annotated and hold clues, jokes and even sometimes sub plots of their own.

Ottoline is a resourceful and independent child. She has to be, as her parents are world renowned explorers, and are often away on trips. While they travel, they leave Ottoline in the capable hands of dozens of home help businesses including McBeans’ cleaning service and a professional pillow plumper. They also leave her with Mr. Munroe, a small, hairy creature they rescued from a damp bog in Norway, and who is Ottoline’s best friend in all the world. Mr. Munroe detests having his hair brushed and being wet. He eats only porridge and hot chocolate, and is not very good at keeping his room tidy, because bogs in Norway don’t really have rooms.

Ottoline, as well as collecting unusual things like her parents, is also good at solving mysteries.

In this story a spate of lap dog and jewel thefts is rippling through the neighbourhood, and Ottoline, with the help of Mr. Munroe and a large bear who lives in the basement and steals people’s washing, sets out to save the day.

The story is hugely quirky, very intriguing and has lots and lots of humour, both in the writing and the illustration. It is an absolute joy to read.

We recommend it to boys and girls aged 7-12.

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