Monday, 16 March 2015

William and the Missing Masterpiece by Helen Hancocks

William – international cat of mystery (whatever, exactly, that means) – has been called to Paris to solve an art theft: the Mona Cheesa. Can he succeed where the local authorities have failed, and find the culprit? Quick enough he finds some clues the police seem to have missed – or dismissed, perhaps – but what do they mean? While he mulls it over, he’s distracted by a strange, heavily cloaked individual walking down the street (minding their own business, to be honest) and decides to stake them out. What are they up to, going in and out of the shops on the high street so brazenly? (er, yes, that is my sarcastic voice).

The most interesting thing about William and the Missing Masterpiece for me are the illustrations. They are not, perhaps, the sort of illustrations that you might normally see in a children’s picture book – which tend more towards the cutesy cutesy variety – but are slightly more reminiscent of the sort of artwork that might adorn the walls of the museum from which the Mona Cheesa has been stolen.

There is a lot of storytelling in this book, too, and again it doesn’t follow the more normal picture book storytelling tropes. I mean this in a positive way, but what holds it back is the fact that the illustrations are mostly background adornment to the story, rather than working in complete tandem with the pictures (like they do in, say, the ingenious This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen). And in addition to this, this book is all plot, and all cleverness, the author seemingly trying to fit in as many ‘cheesy’ puns as she can (and yes, they are extremely, ahem, cheesy). What suffers as a result is character. As in, William has none. He’s a cat. He’s some sort of renowned detective. He gets a bit suspicious about things. And that’s about all I got from him.

For a book that is billed as being hilarious I honestly found it rather confusing. The plot works itself out – albeit perhaps a little too fast and a little too easily? – and the drawings are interesting, but I mostly felt like the author is expecting – or giving herself – a big pat on the back for being oh so terribly clever and funny, which ultimately left me feeling rather indifferent. But: if you like cheese and cheesy humour, perhaps this is one for you.

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