Sunday, 4 November 2012

The Diabolical Mr. Tiddles, by Tom McLaughlin

Mr. Tiddles is diabolical indeed. After wishing and wishing for a cat, on Harry’s birthday his wish comes true with the arrival of Mr. Tiddles. Mr. Tiddles, however, is no ordinary cat. Overnight, the strangest things start appearing in Harry’s room: triple chocolate cream-and-custard cake, train tracks, peculiar paintings and more. But when a horse arrives (a horse named Alan, no less), Harry decides it’s time to draw the line. The next night Harry follows Mr. Tiddles as he dips and dives across town and into... Buckingham Palace. What happens next? Well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

Clearly, the moral of this story is that it’s bad to steal. Anything moralistic like this is difficult to tackle and I know from my nursery nurse days how hard it is to strike that balance between explaining the rights and wrongs of a situation to a small child, and trying to absolve that situation in the right manner. In the case of Mr. Tiddles, his bad behaviour is excused if he promises to return everything he stole. While making a child do this can be quite upsetting - and thus a reasonable consequence - Mr. Tiddles, with his permanent grin, doesn’t really seem very regretful of his actions, which rather undermines the purpose of his punishment. Something in my gut tells me this is unlikely to be the last time Mr. Tiddles gets himself in a spot of trouble. On the flip side, I’m not sure how else author Tom McLaughlin could have ended his book, because it’s not like I would want it to be all tears and regret either. So maybe I am being overcritical.

Anyhow. The Diabolical Mr. Tiddles is an average sort of picture book. The pictures are fine, there’s plenty to look at and there are some quirky little asides such as Mr. Tiddles bouncing on a pogo stick, or showing up in a ‘Wanted’ ad on the TV. I enjoyed the first half of the book, wondering where the story was going to go, but was disappointed with where it actually went, and didn’t really like the palace scenes at all.

Would I want Mr. Tiddles to come and live with me? The answer? Oh no. That cat is trouble with a capital T.

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