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Review: The Diabolical Mr Tiddles, Tom McLaughlin

The Diabolical Mr Tiddles; Tom McLaughlin

Published January 2012, Simon and Schuster. List price, £5.99.

Appropriate for ages 3-10.

From the cover;

Fearsome dinosaurs, whooshing jetpacks, rockstar guitars, a horse called Alan…

Just a few of the things that Harry unexpectedly finds in his bedroom. Where are they coming from

It couldn’t have anything to do with Harry’s furry-purry new pussycat Mr Tiddles… could it?

We’ve decided, as a nation of cat lovers, that when puss arrives through the catflap with a gob full of recently deceased small mammal, they’re bringing a gift for us. We’ve decided this without much in the way of evidence – could not mousey be abandoned on the kitchen floor simply because puss has grown tired of it? But no, we humans have summoned all our intellect and come to the most egotistical conclusion possible. It must be a gift! For us! For they luuurrrrve us!*

Tom McLaughlin’s debut picture book riffs off these ruminations and comes up with Mr Tiddles: cat burglar. It’s not a brand new concept (see The Clever Clever Cats, for a lovely subversion of the trope) but it’s not been done to death, either.

Mr Tiddles, confused by his human’s reaction to the lovely fresh mouse brought home for him, sets out each night to find an appropriate gift, but when his human, Henry, wakes up to find a horse in his bedroom, something has to be done. Before he knows it, he’s in the Queen’s bedroom…

TreasuryIslands loves a picture book with the Queen in** (preferring her Maj as a 2D irreverency to a symbolic figurehead) which is another point in McLaughlin’s favour. She’s granny-like, with tight rolls of gray hair and fleecy slippers, friendly despite her crown. McLaughlin’s characters are his strong suit. His rock star reeks of Bowie, his royal guards of heavy menace, and though these characters each appear once they are as fully formed as Henry and Mr Tiddles.

The Diabolical Mr Tiddles is a story about friendship and the ways we show our love that will raise a giggle in adults and children alike.

The illustrations are – and this is no criticism – childish and colourful, with verve and movement. There are visual jokes for read along parents and there’s plenty of interest for younger eyes, with addenda to the text narrative hidden among them. The Diabolical Mr Tiddles wholeheartedly deserves a 9/10.

*A brief look in Cat!Bible reveals this is not the case:

Yea verrily, spake the LORD; She who holdeth the can opener deserveth the love. Speaketh unto her in trills, and rubbeth thy white fur upon her black trousers.

** The Queen’s Knickers is wonderful.

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