The Genius Factor: How to Capture an Invisible Cat

posted in: Paul Tobin, Thierry Lafontaine | 6

invisiblecatcover Utterly bonkers and enormously fun for all that, full of wackiness, crazy inventions, tight corners and one seriously big (and invisible) problem to solve, The Genius Factor: How to Capture an Invisible Cat by Paul Tobin (@PaulTobin) with illustrations by Thierry Lafontaine (@ThierryArt) has had me and my eleven year old giggling with delight.

It’s a madcap tale of one bright Nate Bannister, who – rather admirably – makes a conscious effort to keep his life interesting; every Friday the 13th he chooses to do three things which are either a challenge or likely to bring some adventure. This year this includes creating an enormous, invisible cat who does indeed make life rather more exciting… by going on the rampage.

Fortunately Nate has a loyal friend (indeed, his only friend), Delphine, and together they try all sorts of things to stop the crazy cat from destroying their neighbourhood. Inventions galore and smart thinking abound, but it’s not at all straight forward, because the Red Death Tea Society (ominous baddies of the most evil variety, who just happen to have astonishing tea brewing skills) are set on preventing Nate and Delphine from saving the day.

This riotous book, ideal for 9-12s, celebrates being a little bit different and being curious and clever. Brilliantly, it does this with a great dose of silliness and laughter, so it always feels exhilarating and never sanctimonious. Pacey, eccentric, highly imaginative and with characters and a story line likely to appeal to both boys and girls, I’d suggest How to Capture an Invisible Cat to anyone who loves off-the-wall adventure and thinking outside the box.

There’s something very mysterious about the Red Death Tea Society and so we couldn’t resist having a go at making up some tea they might enjoy. We gathered our tea making ingredients; a mixture of warm spices (cinammon, cardomum, cloves, star anise), fresh herbs (rosemary, sage mint), citrus zest (lemon and orange) and sugar lumps, plus small muslin squares to make the teabags (alternatively you could make teabags out of coffee filters using these instructions, or be inspired by this tea bag themed pinterest board).

redeathteasociety6

Deciding on tea flavours was a bit like mixing up magic potions.

redeathteasociety5

Once the flavours were carefully selected, the muslin squares (about 12cm long on each side) were tied up with red thread, and a tea bag label was stapled onto the thread (using a knot to hold it in place).

redeathteasociety4

M designed the logo for the teabags, but if you’d like to use them you can download them here (pdf).

Once all our teabags were ready, we made boxes for them:

redeathteasociety7

(Again, if you’d like to re-use the logo, here it is in a large size, idea for using on boxes.)

We filled some our boxes up (you’d better watch out, in case you find one on your doorstep!)…

redeathteasociety3

But we also had to brew some tea for ourselves:

redeathteasociety1

And of course, a cup of tea without a biscuit is no good, so we made some invisible cat cookies.

redeathteasociety0

Yes, you may be able to see them, but this is only because they contain that magical invisible cat de-cloaking device (spoiler alert): peanut butter. (Here’s the recipe we used.)

Whilst making tea and eating peanut butter cat biscuits we listened to:

  • Scat Cat by Eric Herman and the Invisible Band
  • Peanut Butter by The Liverbirds (do watch this!)
  • Invisible Friends by Dog On Fleas


  • Other activities which might work well alongside reading How to Capture an Invisible Cat include:

  • Making inventions! You could design them using carbon paper to get the look (that old fashioned blue ink), or in 3D with lots of junk salvaged from your recycling bins.
  • Playing around with invisibility. I’ve gathered some crafts and activities which explore invisibility here.
  • Thinking of three things which would make your life more interesting and attempting to achieve one of them! They don’t need to be quite as crazy as Nate’s ideas – you could decide as a family to learn a new language or skill, try a new cafe or just asking your local librarian for a book recommendation. And if you want to know when all the Friday the 13ths are – here’s a handy table.


  • If you liked this post you might like these other posts by me:

  • Picture books about tea parties
  • A rather less ominous cat/tea party (how to make a cat cafe)
  • A selection of family friendly books about tinkering – great for inspiring inventions!

  • If you’d like to receive all my posts from this blog please sign up by popping your email address in the box below:

    Delivered by FeedBurner



    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher and this post is the final part of a blog tour that’s been travelling around the world:

    Monday, March 21 — Daddy Mojo (US)

    Tuesday, March 22 — Nerdy Book Club (US)

    Wednesday, March 23 — Jenuine Cupcakes (US)

    Thursday, March 24 — This Kid Reviews Books (US)

    Friday, March 25 — Fiction Fascination (UK)

    Monday, March 28 — Gobblefunked (ANZ)

    Tuesday, March 29 — MumtoFive.com (ANZ)

    Wednesday, March 30 — Playing by the Book (UK)

    InvisibleCat_TourBanner (00000002)

    6 Responses

    1. Maria-Cristina

      Great, as usual, Zoe! Loved the videos, too!

      • thank you Maria-Cristina. When we found the Peanut Butter song we were so happy!

    2. Those tea bag box designs are adorable!

      And this book sounds perfect for my 10-year-old daughter (and my love of all things outside-the-box!).

      • Thanks Claire – design was all down to my 11 year old. She loves working on logos!

    3. […] and Australia & New Zealand, featuring reviews, guest posts, and more. Today the UK-based blog Playing By The Book comes up with some fun and ingenious activities inspired by the […]

    4. Sounds like a great book! I love your review, and your activity ideas! We’d love for you to link up this post with the Literacy Musing Mondays Link-up if you’re interested! You can find it at http://pagesandmargins.wordpress.com/2016/04/03/literacy-musing-mondays-until-my-son-learns-how-to-read/. Thanks!
      Beth @ Pages and Margins recently posted..Literacy Musing Mondays – Until my Son Learns How to Read

    Leave a Reply

    CommentLuv badge

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.