Miss 7 said; “Is this for real mum? Is this true life, for real, actually a real cat in this world?” When children’s books often focus on fantasy and make-believe, it can be hard for small minds to get their head around the fact that some fantastical stories are, in fact, real. My seven-year-old had two visits from the tooth fairy last week, so her grasp of what’s real and what’s fiction is in that innocent child phase—but with a few emerging doubts. So, to explain that Dwayne was “true life, real and not pretend” made this book pretty special.
The cat from Muzzle is a children’s book that was just released this week by Penguin Random House. It tells the extraordinary true story of Dwayne, a real cat (with the coolest cat name) who made his way back home to the remote Muzzle Station, from his new home in Kaikoura in an epic five-week journey. Whilst no-one knows for sure, guesstimates presume Dwayne went over the seaward Kaikoura range where the lowest saddle crossing is 1300 metres. He battled forests, mountains, snow, rivers and cold, but he made it back to his beloved home with all paws intact.
Local Wanaka artist Scott Tulloch illustrated the book, which is now on sale at Paper Plus. Tulloch is well known for his art and was previously an artist with paintings on exhibit in galleries, before he decided he’d rather be an illustrator in children’s books. Tulloch is the creative hand behind the pictures in Craig Smith’s My Daddy ate an apple, and Square eyes. He has also written and illustrated his own books, including Silly Goat Gruff, I am not a worm, (shortlisted for Children’s Book Award) and Willy’s dad.
The book was fun for Tulloch to illustrate. “How on earth did the cat know which way to go?” said Tulloch. “If you were dropped at 1300m up Mt Aspiring would you have any idea how to walk your way out? I have been to Muzzle Station, hunting and camping on the seaward side of the Clarence River and it is incredibly remote. I just can’t fathom how a cat has that sense of direction and how on earth it got across the river.”
That sense of incredulity makes the children’s story a real adventure book. It is set in the South Island, which helps kids understand that it is real, and tangible and close. It is written in rhyme, which is great for young readers, with some repeated verses which help little readers gain confidence in syntax and rhythm. Miss 8 said “I knew all the words mum,” whilst Miss 7 said “I like the rhyming.”
For cat lovers and fans of New Zealand authors, this is a great addition to your kids’ bookshelf. Thumbs up.
The cat from Muzzle by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Scott Tulloch. Available now at Paper Plus.