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Squishy McFluff The Invisible Cat Meets Mad Nana Dot is one of a series of books about Squishy McFluff, published by Faber & Faber.

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Oscar and I picked it because its format is reminiscent of the Barrington Stoke, Little Gem books we love so much. We like smaller sized picture books a child can manage on their own without wrestling with them like a businessman struggling to read the Financial Times on a crowded tube train.  We also liked the illustrations by Ella Okstad which have kind of a Scandinavian meets Eloise vibe going on, in a fabulous palette of greens and reds that really makes the book stand out.

Squishy McFluff, is as the title suggests, Ava’s invisible cat. He is also a rather naughty, mischief prone, invisible cat.  He and Ava spend a lot of time doing things like filling the garden shed with water from the garden hose, just to pass the time.

Ava is sent to stay with her Nana Dot, so called because her entire house is polka dot, when her mum has to go to hospital to have a new baby.  Ava’s dad warns Ava and Squishy to behave themselves for Nana, but as you might expect, this proves almost impossible and Nana is dragged from one bonkers situation to another until it is time for Ava to go home and meet her new sister.

The main problem we had with this book is that it rhymes, and the constraints of the story means that it does that terrible sort of rhyming where the author has to force sentences to end in certain words so that other sentences can rhyme, and this jars terribly on the ear, because nobody really speaks like that, and the reader ends up sounding a bit medieval, but in a bad way.

For large parts of the text this is not a problem and I was pretty impressed with the dexterity of the author in making the rhyme scheme as unobtrusive as possible, but there are times, terrible times when it all goes wrong.

Times like this:

‘Nan said: ‘Good kitty,

‘have you worked up a hunger?

‘We’ll make a quick stop

at my local fishmonger.’

This drove me slightly insane.

There is also really poor continuity in the story. Like the Little Gem books, this one is broken into chapter style segments. These seem rather arbitrary, it has to be said and the narrative breaks are all over the place and bear no relation to the chapter markings.

The fishmonger episode, for example, comes directly after Squishy’s encounter with a postman. On the previous page, Squishy is supposedly clambering on the postman when Nana Dot hits the postman with her walking stick.  This state of affairs is left hanging as we go off to the fishmongers, and is never referred to again.  There are a few times like this, when one narrative thread ends rather unsatisfactorily and we, the readers, are left dangling. This was also infuriating.

All in all, a bit of a poor relation in both style and quality if you’re used to the Little Gem series.

We quite liked the story. We loved the illustrations, but neither of us are passionate about reading the books we have missed to be honest. The book was quite amusing but the mischief quota never really got high enough for us, and the cuteness was a bit overpowering at times.

A transitional/chapter book suitable for children aged 6-8. We thought it would appeal mostly to girls, although the more mischievous elements might appeal to boys if you can get them past the cuteness of the illustrations and cover.

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