Reviewed by Deborah Banasko
We are a family who love the library and would usually visit at least once a fortnight, so having new books to read is something that we truly miss whilst the pandemic continues. As a result I have been buying more books than usual so I was very excited to have two new ones to review about one of our favourite animals, a cat!
My children are aged 9, 6 and 2 so the Tower Bridge Cat, and the Tower Bridge Cat and the Whale are best suited to the younger two boys, although I knew my older girl would love to listen too.
Both books centre around The Tower Bridge cat, Bella. As the title suggests she lives in Tower Bridge and is the Bridge Master’s cat, and has many adventures centred around our country’s capital city and more specifically Tower Bridge. You are introduced to Bella, along with 5 other human characters in the first book and these principal figures continue into the Tower Bridge Cat and the Whale book. The key theme is that Bella is a very clever cat and the hero of the stories, keeping everyone organised and saving them from potential disaster. Oh and she can talk!
In the first book, The Tower Bridge Cat, everyone is organising a celebration for the Queens birthday as she will be passing under Tower Bridge in her royal barge. However there is an issue with the traffic lights and as the bridge is raised, a bus is still crossing the bridge. Bella has to rush to try to save the bus and passengers in time, as well as the celebrations.
In the Tower Bridge Cat and the Baby Whale, a baby whale has lost it’s mother and is hiding under the bridge. A cruise ship is heading towards the bridge so they must try to move the whale urgently so that she isn’t hurt. The humans come up with a few ridiculous suggestions on how to save the whale but it is Bella and her pilot friend (Maya the Flyer) who come to the rescue.
Both stories have adventure and excitement without any scary bad guys so they are the perfect bedtime (or anytime) story books.
I love that the character names relate to their job, for example Stan the Stoker and Hannah the cook as it helps children to keep up with the story and remember who each character is. The vocabulary used is really varied and, whilst the story is easy to follow, there are some words in there which children of the target age range may not encounter everyday (such as “chorused” and “nibbling”). I personally think that it’s so important that we don’t dumb stories down and that we expose children to a range of vocabulary so I loved the attention given to the words used. The beauty of these books is that the artwork compliments the words, so that children can follow the narrative easily.
When Bella speaks the author uses speech bubbles so that it is separate from the main text, and they follow a defined pattern throughout; she starts with a “miaow miaow” (naturally!) followed by a short sentence that ends with the word “now”. Somehow this makes the idea of a cat talking a little more believable, as well as adding a new dimension to the book and acting as a bit of a summary. It also allows me to practice my cat-voice which always gets a laugh, and it actually helps you relate to the character of Bella. I do think this simple feature made my children really love Bella more, it was very effective.
A key point that I have to raise relates to the artwork, as you don’t often find such amazing illustrations in a children’s story book. They are beautiful and so detailed but very much designed with children in mind, and help your child to understand the text by explaining what is happening in the form of pictures.
The front cover instantly draws you in and tells you what the books are about with the gorgeous cat illustration and the bridge in the background, and I love the fact that both book covers are very similar in design.
There was real humour in each book; my kids are silly and I do tend to make strange sound effects to enhance the story so it is often difficult to say for sure whether we are daft or the book is funny. Anyhow, we really laughed at a couple of points in each book and I am sure anyone else would too!
This is such an original idea for a story series and the possibilities for Bella’s future adventures are endless. I really hope that more books are released, and to be honest it would make a lovely TV cartoon. I loved that the humans have no idea how to solve the problems faced but a cute little cat does… and more significantly everyone listens to her without question!
The price is £12 for both books or £6.99 each, which is a fair price for the quality of book; the artwork, the sturdy paperback cover and good quality paper. It feels like value for money as there are quite a large number of pages for the target age group, which I personally would set at anything from a 2 year old who has a love of books and good concentration, to a child of 6 or 7 who can read these by themselves. However there aren’t too many words on each page so that a young child would become confused or bored, as the illustrations are so detailed and help to tell the story too. In this book the pictures are as important as the text; it is all about amazing artwork and a cat that saves the day.
Christmas is almost here but, given the library situation and the amount of parents like me who cannot face reading the same books day after day, this set of books would make a beautiful and very much appreciated gift; we really loved them.
I would award these books 5 stars out of 5; amazing artwork, lovely stories and what an original concept!
RRP: £12.99 for both books
This product can be purchased from Tower Bridge here.