Flat Cat by Hiawyn Oram
Ill. by Gwen Millward. Walker Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781406371543.
(Ages: 3-8) Recommended. Themes: Freedom, Independence, Materialism. Bright crayon illustrations bring the world around the flat cat to life (because Jimi-My-Jim really is just a flat, line drawing). Sophie lives at the top of a big apartment building in a beautiful city with a beautiful cat. She really spoils Jimi-My-Jim with the best food, toys, fancy collars and cheeky clothes. 'Most of the most spoilt children in the world didn't have as many tantalising toys as Jimi-My-Jim'. Jimi tries to be grateful and do what Sophie wants but deep down he feels trapped. 'When Sophie went off with her parents each morning Jimi sat at the window watching her go, watching the world he longed to be a part of, watching a cat he so wanted to meet'. He really does live a 2-dimensional life and starts to feel and look flatter and flatter. When the chance to escape presents itself, Jimi doesn't hesitate, making straight for the cat he so wants to meet. The cat, named Blanche, shows him around town and Jimi has the best day, ending in a party back at the apartment. When Sophie and her parents arrive home to the mess all his new friends disappear, leaving Jimi to face the telling-off alone.
'I think I know why you did it', says Sophie later, 'You wanted the world, you wanted the wild and all I've done is smother you with THINGS'. He is soon presented with his own set of keys and some rules: keep out of fights, be in bed by ten and no dodgy friends in the apartment.
The illustrations and text are humorous (children will love the Jimi's ridiculous outfits and the dodgy cat party) but there is also a nice message about how living life and doing gives us happiness rather than things. It is also about how part of loving someone is letting them be who they are, not just keeping them to ourselves.