Ottoline and the Yellow Cat by Chris Riddell

I’ll say it right away – I LOVE Chris Riddell. I grew up with his and Paul Stewart’s Beyond the Deepwoods series (doubtless to be reviewed at some point because this is me and they are two of my all-time favourite authors) and when I first saw Ottoline and the Yellow Cat I jumped on it so fast I’d have scored myself a medal. His illustrations are beautiful and I will happily buy anything he illustrates just to have something to marvel over.

That said, I’m not going to review this book solely because I love the author’s illustrative work because that is not fair at all to Riddell’s mad, quirky writing skillz. No, the reason I love telling people about Ottoline is because it’s fantastically eccentric.

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books ISBN: 9781405050579 Published: 3/12/2010

In Ottoline and the Yellow Cat, Ottoline finds that pets are mysteriously disappearing from the block she lives in and she charges herself with the task of finding out where they’ve been taken to and who has been doing the pooch-pilfering. Of course her constant companion Mr Munro goes with her and they work together to find the clues and solve the problem.

Ottoline is brilliantly oddball. She lives alone but for Mr Munro, a small hairy thing from Norway, while her parents rove the world sending back curiosities to her that caught their attention. Things like five spouted teapots, for example. Ottoline herself is a bit of an eccentric; although she has a large collection of shoes, she likes to wear one from one pair on one foot, and another from a completely different pair on the other. If I could get away with this in Real Life, I would so do it. She is also a master of disguise, complete with certificate and if my wardrobe had only half the marvellous outfits she can put together I would be a very happy Uhu.
The stories themselves (so far there are three in the series) are very short, resembling detailed picturebooks. They’re a nice stopgap for readers who are just about making their way between being developing readers to confident readers. The amount of picture to text makes them less daunting to a less confident child but the text itself is complex enough to be a step up from basic reading books like the Bananas series and Oxford Reading Tree. Plus, the book is in a very attractive hardback format, so it instantly feels like a proper, grown-up reading book without looking too difficult to read. It feels like a gift as soon as you take hold of it and the inside definitely doesn’t disappoint.
One of my favourite 5-8 reads for a reason, I’m eagerly collecting the set so far of Ottoline books and I would cheerfully recommend these sweet stories to any young developing readers.  I’ve loved Chris Riddell’s drawings for ages and I’m so happy to finally find his own, non-co-authored books to recommend.

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