I Am a Very Clever Cat

posted in: Kasia Matyjaszek | 0

clevercatcoverLet me introduce you to Stockton. He’s an utterly charming chap. Full of easy, relaxed confidence, a glass-half-full sort of guy. He’s got a passion for life and getting on with things. He enjoys juggling, dancing and painting, but most of all, he’d dead keen on knitting. And he’s pretty darn good at it.

Or so he believes.

Stockton wants to knit himself a new scarf for a special occasion, and he gives it his all. He’s creative, upbeat and all for rising to the challenge but… it turns out knitting isn’t really Stockton’s forte.

Fortunately, quietly beavering away in the background, he’s got a couple of very good (if somewhat unlikely) friends, the sort who don’t criticise, who don’t stomp on your dreams, but let you enjoy what your doing whilst they get on with a plan to help you out should you end up (perhaps through no fault of your own), not quite managing to make your dreams come true.

I am a Very Clever Cat by Kasia Matyjaszek is a riotous and joyful read full of reassurance and sumptuous silliness. Stockton, the clever cat in question, is a delightful anti-hero whose joie-de-vivre ensures we’re rooting for him from the start, even though it quickly becomes apparent he’s not (yet) quite got what it takes to achieve what he wants. Slapstick comedy combined with a powerful undercurrent of love and support (discretely showing friendship can cross all sorts of perceived divides, with Stockton’s silent but solid friends turning out to be mice) fill this book with giggles and hope. As a parent I found myself thinking “Yes, one of the things I I want for my kids is to quietly facilitate all their passions, with them knowing (even if subconsciously) that I’ve always got their back.”

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Heady energy zings off the pages of I am a Very Clever Cat, with flowing lines, neon colours and dramatic changes of perspective all visually adding to the sense of happy enthusiasm and excitement. Endpapers showing who really is very clever (or at least, who already knows how to do lots and lots of amazing things) provide further colourful cameos, and could spark lots of spin-off stories in the imagination of young listeners.

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We could all do with some good friends like Stockton’s, and so we conjoured up a whole army of industrious mice to bring good cheer to all.

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Mice bodies were made out of cones, curved from semi-circles of black card. The points of the cones were snipped off, and beads with pipecleaners threaded through as whiskers were glued in place to make noses. White circles were cut from paper for eyes, and long ears from card, all stuck on at jaunty angles. Finally a pipecleaner was sellotaped to the wide end of each cone to create a tail. Once we had our host of kind mice, we showed them where the knitting needles and wool are kept…

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… and you can see, they had almost as much fun as Stockton did with his yarn!

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I am a Very Clever Cat is a book full of optimism, encouragement and one fantastically funny feline. Don’t just take my word for it – check out these reviews on Childtastic Books, and by Jill Bennett.

If you like the sound of this book or the look of Kasia’s dynamic and vibrant illustrations, do take part in the (worldwide) giveaway I’m running to win an original illustration by Kasia – full details here.

Whilst we made our mice we listened to:

  • C Is for Cat by The Pop Ups, which asks all sorts of important questions about what cats like
  • Walking My Cat Named Dog – a cover version by They Might Be Giants
  • Bought Me a Cat sung by Pete Seeger


  • Other activities which might work well alongside reading I am a Very Clever Cat include:

  • Simply playing with bits of wool. Knitting might be a little hard for young listeners to I am a Very Clever Cat, but here’s a whole lot of other ideas of how they can play with wool, enjoying the textures and colours. Super simple, but lots of fun is this idea with sticky-back plastic.
  • Playing with a huge expanse of paper and one bright pink marker and letting kids doodle a ‘length of wool’, with lots of swirls and curls, inspired by how Stockton’s wool meanders all of the place. Kids love drawing on a wide open space; you could use a role of wallpaper backing paper, and if you can get some vibrant neon pens that mark easily, the freedom of drawing long swooping lines will be lots of fun. If you did this as a group, you could then turn your swirling lines into a “find what is at the end of the line game”, like this:
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  • Enjoying some other picture books which feature knitting. We’ve a round up here, and Stockton would no doubt love to meet Stanley

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    Disclosure: Kasia is a ceilidh dancing partner of mine, and I was also sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher, Templar Books.

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