Deserved winner of the six-and-under category in the Roald Dahl Funny Prize 2011, "Cats Ahoy" is packed with piratical felines, high adventure and fishy plunder.
This is a charming and witty picture book. It warmed the cockles of my heart even though I'm a devout dog person and not remotely fond of cats.
Cut to human sailors, Captain Trawlaney P Craddock and his crew (including an eye-patch sporting teddy bear), having their timbers shivers by the spectre of a ghostly ship on the horizon. They panic and summarily abandon ship before the Kipper sails close enough for them to see that it is cat-ted, not manned, by the living. Alfonso and his motley kitties loot the ship's tasty cargo and high tail it to a skulduggerous cove where we see them glut and and dance the week away.
Their humans have missed them, and when they eventually return home, to hear the tale of Craddock's trauma, they smile as if butter wouldn't melt. They are lovely, innocent felines.
The story is is irrepressible and irresistible. It fizzes along with Peter Bently's lovely rhymes - a lilting cadence that kids will chime in with. Jim Field's super-detailed illustrations are atmospheric and entrancing. He pulls us into the harbour village and on to the ocean waves. The scenes are painterly and textured, especially the mist and water. Each of the characters, major or minor, cat or person, has bags of personality simply from their appearance.
It's a delightful tale, full of energy and affection. And the punchline is priceless and makes me grin every time!