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Guest post: Abby reviews 'The Cats Who Wanted More'

Abby is a stay at home mum from West Yorkshire, who has had a love of reading and all things creative since childhood. She now enjoys reading new and old adventures aloud to her own three little ones, who always snuggle in together for the next story. We are delighted to feature her article about one of our bestselling picture books 'The Cats Who Wanted More' by Katie Sahota, illustrated by Naomi Topping (Owlet Press, 2022) on our website!! Thank you Abby!!

My five year old daughter loves Cats, so I knew this book was going to be an immediate hit before we even opened the cover. The pages waiting to be read inside were such a suprise though, even for me. I have never been so amused, yet so triggered, whilst reading a children's story. The political vibe and all the digs at the government hit me on the very first read through, though the politics weren't picked up on by my daughter or my eldest son when he read it himself.

To them this was a story about cats being greedy, treating mice and rats unfairly, which caused the rodents to take matters into their own hands and work together to put things back as they should be. To me however, this was a pretty hilarious but very accurate and sad depiction of life in lock down. It reminded me of how we were lied to and told we were in this together, all whilst parties happened behind closed doors, the elite did what they please, the media blamed everyone else, and turned people with differences against eachother. I'll try not to rant but yes, it's deep and very political, but only if you already know about all these things. This book is the equivalent of adult humour in a children's film, that makes all the grown ups laugh but goes right over all the little ones heads. When my children are a little older and do have more of an understanding, this book will certainly be the one I choose as an introduction to politics.

The pages of this story are full of moments that we'll all never forget and some definitely touched a few nerves of my own. Infact the "Dear friends, we have ALL found ourselves in the middle of a crisis" line made me physically roll my eyes. I automatically read it in that silly tone of voice politicians use, felt that irritation build in my chest, before bursting into a fit of giggles as I turned over the page to see all the cats partying when they thought the rodents weren't looking. Those pages were so perfectly put together for maximum impact. My daughter immediately voiced how unfair the cats were acting towards the rodents, and I sat there listening to her, nodding along, thinking to myself just how unfair it all really was. There's a lot of unfairness still going around too, what with the cost of living crisis and the current leaders stance on giving only the richest people a break from all that. The message of only taking your fair share and the illustrations of mice holding up signs saying "FOOD FOR ALL" is even more meaningful now.

Whilst speaking of that little mouse I'd like to mention how Peter Barton, co-owner of the online store Babipur who put ethics and sustainability above all else, was able to speak with both Katie Sahota and Naomi Tipping in an Instagram live. I was so excited to hear their opinions and ideas that led to this unique children's picture book, and although both the Author and illustrator confirmed so much about the politically fueled storyline, it was something they hadn't intended that really got me thinking about the power of this book. Peter Barton asked them if the little mouse on the first page, holding up that "FOOD FOR ALL" sign was a nod towards Marcus Rashford, who stood against the governments decision to not help feed school children in poverty, that would usually receive a free school meal. Katie and Naomi actually included that page in memory of their own cats and it wasn't a hint at Marcus Rashford at all. For me this shows that once a book like this one gets us all thinking critically about politics, news, and complete unfairness, we will notice and read into everything so much more. Therefore this book will give power to both adults and children to think critically, pay attention to what is happening and ultimately call out what is wrong. The messages they get from this book will all be different, we may see things that weren't intended by the author and illustrator, but it will ultimately make us all think of and consider what is fair and what is not.

A lot of political statements are very clear throughout this book, yet some are more subtle. I'm not actually sure if the rats and mice being different "races of rodent", one white and one black, was purposely done or not by the author and the illustrator. This stood out to me though, and was so cleverly done in my opinion, to make a point on how race and the black lives matter movement was a huge media topic at the time of Covid too. Divided people do keep the elite powerful and the media caused so much division. The scapegoats were the perfect distraction needed by the government, the media had someone else to blame for covid levels, and I myself engaged in many disagreements with people I know over this topic. I can't stand racism, and my goodness a lot of it emerged. However a lot of people came together and stood up for what was right regardless. There were protests even in the middle of a pandemic, which obviously met a lot of critism from the media and government who used covid as a means of control. Those fighting for their rights were portrayed as irresponsible and a health threat to us all. In the book, when the rats and mice realised that they were being turned against eachother, and lied to in messages sent by the cats, they worked together to take the cats down and put things right. It made me wonder what could really be done. Imagine if everyone saw through the lies, made a stand for what is fair and what is right, because the government don't seem to grasp the difference between right and wrong. If they do they simply do not care, just like the greedy cats in this book who certainly had no morals. I love that the rodents literally chewed through the electric cables to "take away their power". This idea was just genius, such an important message and so perfectly written and illustrated.

Speaking of illustrations the ones in this book, coloured in a very fitting muted pallette of black, grey, white and red, took this story to a whole other level! There is toilet roll everywhere! The illustrations show it all hoarded in great big stacks capturing, even if slightly over exaggerated, a time of empty shelves due to people feeling the need to panic buy (thanks again media!) Then there's covid lateral flow tests and masks in the sewers, funny, yet another point made at all the extra plastic pollution and threat to wildlife. I found even certain cats looked quite familiar to faces on the tv... These details were again missed by my daughter who was only two when the first lock down began, but she did laugh lots at the cats sitting on toilets and found it hilarious when they all got their bums stuck in cat flaps by being to greedy. My eldest son ran into the room pointing out the angry cat doing its business on a treadmill, whilst he was reading. They both found so much joy and laughed so much at the pictures in this book. I had a little giggle myself at the illustration of someone sat behind a laptop, clearly frustrated, with the words "YOU'RE ON MUTE!" in a speech bubble. Oh how that took me back to all the virtual learning problems. My now nearly 8 year old would constantly knock the screen and turn it all off. I still wonder if he did it on purpose! Can't say I'd blame him. I was fed up with it all too.

The cats who wanted more really does capture a part of British history, that we will all look back on. It is also a story about morals, doing what's right and only taking your own fair share, with a good dose of humour for all thrown in. It's just brilliant. I couldn't love it more! x

'The Cats Who Wanted More' by Katie Sahota, illustrated by Naomi Topping is out now, published by Owlet Press. Format: paperback. For ages 2+

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