Go Home, Cat! by Sonya Hartnett and Lucia Masciullo

Go Home, Cat!

Sonya Hartnett and Lucia Masciullo

Puffin: 2022

ISBN: 9781760899493

Age: 4+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Nicholas has just found a coin and he is off to the local sweet store to buy the thing he loves more than almost anything—liquorice. But Cat loves Nicholas and she will not let him go without her…

Go Home, Cat! is a tale of unconditional love and friendship that suggests the capacity of both to lessen the heartache of disappointment, a challenging emotion for most children. Nicholas is palpably excited about the liquorice he intends to buy and while his love of liquorice remains his first thought en route to the sweet shop, another more important love takes precedence in the end.

Cat displays a child-like persistence in following Nicholas and Nicholas’s cautious and censorious tone and gestures in response to Cat are quite adult-like. This characterisation encourages young readers to identify with the more mature human character, preparing them to apprehend Nicholas’s selfless act of unconditional love in the conclusion. The cat’s innocent and uncomprehending ‘Marl’ in response to all of Nicholas’s chiding is a highlight of the story. It underscores the cat’s childlike character but is also great fun to read out loud and is an invitation for kids to explore onomatopoeia by considering how familiar animal sounds might be represented differently in speech.

The artwork for Go home, Cat! is a dream. The muted bright colours, Nicholas’s mid-20th century costume and the cobblestone village in which he and Cat live all give the story an old-fashioned charm that suits its timeless themes. Cat’s playfulness, Nicholas’s excitement and also his grown-up attempts to manage the persistent Cat are enhanced at every turn in the illustrations, adding great humour and interest. Young readers will especially love the detail in the sweet shop and the map of Nicholas’s route that covers the end pages!

The themes of unconditional love and friendship in this enchanting story are thoughtful and, in some respects, mature, but the story of Go Home, Cat! is so engaging and the characters so loveable that children can easily grasp the timeless and beautiful message it conveys.

Arno and his Horse by Jane Godwin and Felicita Sala

Arno and his Horse

Jane Godwin (author) and Felicita Sala (illustrator)
Scribble: 2021
ISBN: 9781925849486
Age: 4+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Arno has lost the wooden horse his grandfather made for him. With his friends, Arno searches the countryside, but he still can’t find the horse.

The story begins like a mystery with Arno and his friends searching far and wide for the missing toy. The setting for their search is the Australian countryside, rendered dramatically with dark orange scrub and twisting gums. The artwork and rhythmic rhyming text work together to make this first part of the story feel adventurous and fun.

The mood does shift but only a little as the connection between the toy horse and Arno’s grandfather is revealed. The text deals lightly with the loss Arno has experienced; the grandfather’s illness is mentioned explicitly, but his death is only implied. The story does not dwell on this loss but rather turns to the profound connection between the boy and his grandfather that enables Arno to locate the wooden horse.

Arno and his Horse explores the role objects play in evoking memories and connecting people gently and powerfully. The artwork, which renders the Australian landscape so effectively, is full of contrasts between cool greens and deep oranges, curves and straight lines; it provides wonderful opportunities to explore the spectrum of feelings surrounding loss that includes those positive emotions such as love and attachment.

For other titles about loss see our Review List.