• Toria Bono

Owl or Pussycat – a must-read!

Today, I received the most beautiful book in the post, care of David Fickling Books. It is a

…true story of first love and first night nerves by former Children’s Laureate Sir Michael Morpurgo

and it made my heart sing!

The book is called ‘Owl or Pussycat’ and is based on a true story from Sir Michael’s childhood. What makes it so much more special for me, is that the poem that the book is based on ‘The Owl and the Pussy-cat’ by Edward Lear, is my mum’s favourite poem and one that I too grew up with. Anyway, I digress!

The story is based on two firsts in ‘young Michael’s’ life. One when he is cast as the star in ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ and the other when he falls in love with his best-friend Belinda – his first love. This is all at the grand old age of six!

The illustrations by Polly Dunbar (yes, the multi-award winning Polly Dunbar) make the book even more wonderful. The illustrations echo the words on every page – giving an even deeper understanding of ‘young Michael’s’ emotions as he discovers the pleasures and pains that ‘firsts’ can bring.

I love this illustration as it gives the reader such a clear insight into how superior Michael felt when he was first cast as the Owl. He no longer even said hello – just too-wit-too-wooo!




It is in such stark contrast to this illustration – as you can see Michael has fallen from those initial dizzy heights.




The reader definitely goes on a roller-coaster journey with ‘young Michael’ and I found myself living every moment with him. I shall try not to tell you too many more details about the story as I want you to truly enjoy it yourself and gosh you will!

I can’t wait to read the ‘Owl or Pussycat’ to my class because it links in beautifully with all the discussions that I have with them about emotions and wellbeing. Life isn’t always plain sailing and it is so important that children are able to talk about this. Achieving a dream, such as being cast as the star of the school play, does give us pride and joy. However, the moment we walk on that stage there will undoubtedly be nerves and fear. Thankfully, Michael found his way through this with the help of Belinda, just as our children will find their way through their challenges with our help and that of their peers.

Emily Gravett said of the book

A perfect marriage, not only for the Owl and the Pussycat, but also for Polly Dunbar’s exquisite illustrations and Michael Morpurgo’s evocative text. What a beautiful book!

And it truly is – there is even a gatefold page for the full first night experience! I shall be buying a copy for my mum and I know that she will love seeing the original poem on the inside of the cover, just as much as she will love reading about one of her favourite author’s youngest memories.

Thank you so much Polly Dunbar and Sir Michael Morpurgo for making my heart sing!

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