Tabby teaches kids about animal abuse

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  • Monday, 18 Mar 2013

By Michael Helfman
Illustrations by Emily Loh
Publisher: MPH

I don't remember the last time I read a children's book which had the circus in it. It seems to be something from the 1970s, and only recently have we been reintroduced to the circus theme through Madagascar 3.

The book starts by introducing us to Tabby and his brother Spooky who live in the city. They enjoy life in the city until a short, fat man with a thick black moustache takes them away. (Somehow, guys with moustaches always get to be the bad guy ….)

They end up in a closet with a cage. The cats are given spoilt milk to drink. They are scared, sad and face an uncertain future.

One day, a lady with long blond hair and blue eyes takes Spooky home with her, leaving Tabby alone.

Without his brother, Tabby is sad, yet he hopes that Spooky is well taken care of. A skinny man then comes along to take Tabby away. He ends up at the Monticello Bros' Circus.

This is where Tabby meets Olga, the animal lady. She's fierce, has too much makeup on and is looking for a courageous cat for her “greatest stunt yet”!

She's not happy when Tabby is brought to her. He looks nothing like the courageous cat she had asked for. Instead, he looks sad and scared.

Tabby is miserable at the circus, until he decides to be brave and try the stunt. It involves him jumping off a high platform onto a cushion held by Olga! While it seems like an insane trick to try, it could be his way out of the circus.

The book is very attractive and I'm sure no child will pass by it in the bookstore without picking it up. The cat on the cover is too cute.

The illustrations inside the book sometimes have a Disney look to them – especially the menacing short, fat man and the skinny man.

I liked the aerial angle in some of the illustrations. They provided variety and a different perspective.

What I was not crazy about was the way the girl was illustrated – old-fashioned dressing and with pigtails. She reminded me of Heidi (that classic book by Johanna Spyri) or even Laura Ingalls (from Little House On The Prairie, if you're old enough to remember the TV series).

But that's a small complaint and anyway, the little girl only appears at the start and end of the book.

I do wish that the text had been incorporated into the illustrations rather than segregated. But, perhaps it was not so easy to do this considering the book is quite text-heavy.

Storywise, author Helfman does a good job keeping the plot engaging. He even gets across the message of taking care of animals and not abusing them.

Very often, we take animals for granted and forget that they need our love, too.

I liked the way the Tabby character developed from scared and timid to a brave cat who is willing to take chances.

Kids will want to keep reading, or have their parents read them the story, to find out what happens next and whether Tabby and Spooky will be reunited.

There are several values that children can take away from this book, including being brave, the importance of family and friendships, and being kind to animals.

Would I buy this book? Yes. The story is a bit long though, but you can read it as a bedtime tale over several nights.

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