Have you ever ruled the roost, known the lay of the land, had everything humming along tickety-boo with a lovely bunch of great family or friends around you, only to have it all messed up by the arrival of an imposter? Perhaps you were an older child who had to deal with a newborn sibling suddenly taking all the sunshine? Or maybe someone unknown arrived in your classroom and all at once your best friend appeared to abandon you?
Findus Rules the Roost by Sven Nordqvist, translated by Nathan Large draws on these experiences, so recognisable to many, whether young or old, and lets us explore complicated feelings such as jealously, annoyance and a desire for revenge through laughter, mischief and gloriously absurd humour.
Findus, a very sweet pussycat admittedly fond of a prank or two, has lived for many years with the inventive, somewhat grumpy, and yet ultimately loveable old farmer Pettson. Theirs is an idyllic life on a small Swedish farm, where there are always ripe redcurrants to pick, bright white eggs to collect and a cosy corner to share. Despite his outward curmudgeonly appearance, Pettson’s heart couldn’t be bigger and one day he brings home a rooster, rather than see the bird end up in his neighbour’s stew.
This generous act has serious consequences.
Findus feels pushed aside, and to make things worse, the rooster really makes a racket, relishing in what roosters do best: crowing very, VERY loudly. (“‘What a fine sound,’ said Pettson. ‘I think we should call him Pavarotti after Pavarotti the opera singer.’ ‘I don’t think he should be called anything.’ said Findus sulkily.“)
Growing ever more exasperated by the rooster, Findus succumbs to fibbing in an attempt to – as he sees it – put Pavarotti back in his place. Initial relish at this stand against the new upstart doesn’t last long, and although there’s an ending filled with hope and kindness, not everything is resolved neatly with all made better as if nothing had ever gone wrong.
Friendship – its ups and downs, its ins and outs, its joys and difficulties – is at the heart of all the Findus and Pettson books (Findus Rules the Roost is the tenth book in the Findus and Pettson series to be published by Hawthorn Press. You can find my reviews of several of the earlier titles here.) These stories are packed with fierce love (without it ever being sugar-coated) and utter hilarity, both in the telling of a good yarn, but especially and most delightfully in the deliriously detailed and imaginative illustrations, with little cameo gems in almost every direction you look. Look above, and spot the butterfly or below and take on board the hen pecking at the tray. Life is crazy and sometimes makes little sense, but love is everywhere and will always find you. Time and again, this is the message I take away from visiting with my favourite farmer and feline.
The farm on which Findus and Petsson live is full of magic. Look closely and you’ll see little friendly goblin-like creatures going about their business, and everywhere there are exuberant, outsized flowers blooming with all the joy in the world.
Wanting to bring a bit of that cheerfulness into our home, we decided to turn our front garden into a homage to Pettson’s grandi-flora.
Before long we could barely see the table under the blossom!
We found the petals worked best using regular printer paper (albeit coloured paper). We tried using wrapping paper, but it was a little flimsy.
We attached our flower heads to “stems” (branches gathered on a walk through the woods)…
And then set about planting them…
Soon they were sprouting everywhere!
Whilst making our flowers we listened to:
Other activities which could work well alongside reading Findus Rules the Roost include:
Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book, by its publisher, Hawthorn Press.