Published March 2011, Simon & Schuster. Paperback. List price £5.99
Appropriate for ages 2-6.
From the cover:
‘Millicent has ALWAYS wanted a cat so when, one day, a large wooden box labelled Mm…ee…er…ka…t lands THUMP! in her garden, Millicent couldn’t be happier.
“Yippee! You’re a cat and your name is Meer,” she cries. “You can be MY cat!”
Millicent takes Meer indoors but, before long, she discovers that there’s more to her new friend than meets the eye’.
Meerkats are all the rage at the moment. Richard Byrne has spied the bandwagon rollin’ on down the hill and jumped on it with both feet.
The full-page illustrations in Millicent and Meer are bright and clear. A mix of computer generated and hand sketched artwork on each matte page makes for richly textured images that are a pleasure to interact with. Text and image are given equal weight on the page, nudging the reader to read both together to glean a fuller understanding of the story.
The story itself is funny and poignant. Meer is accepted with love and friendship by other characters despite his difference. He doesn’t behave like a cat, though, and ultimately Dad says that Meer has to go and live at the zoo. Meer is as happy at the zoo doing meerkat things with his meerkat family as he was living with Millicent.
The messages of the text are confused. The necessity that he go live with others of his kind slightly undermines the acceptance that the characters show Meer: he is separate but equal, and family trumps friendship. Nevertheless Millicent and Meer is a lovely story, and for that reason it deserves 8 out of 10.
I look forward to Byrne’s next offering, This Book Belongs to Aye-Aye, due in the Summer, with joyful anticipation.