He may have a wide-eyed look of startled dismay but looks can be deceiving. This is no fearful feline. No, no, Max is fierce and he’s ready to prove it. He just needs to find a suitable adversary – and there’s the rub…
It’s a challenge being a superhero when your natural looks work against you. Fed up of being dressed up in ribbons and called ‘sweet’, Max is on a mission to prove his prowess and he decides that chasing a mouse is one sure-fire way to do that. Unfortunately, he’s not the smartest kitty in the litter, and he’s not entirely sure what a mouse looks like.
In a comic search (or perhaps more aptly, a wild goose chase) to find the elusive ‘Mouse’, Max meets a miscellany of creatures, politely asking each one in turn: “Excuse me, please, but are you Mouse?”
Featuring a cast of creatures great (an elephant and a monster) and small (a fly, a goldfish, and a flock of birds who seem rather bemused by Max’s quest), Vere creates a series of vignettes with Max in pursuit – and Mouse always one step ahead of him. (There’s lots of comic mileage for a young audience who will giggle at Max’s gullability, and love the fact that they know much more about animals than the rather dim-witted cat, who can’t tell a mouse from a monster).
There are shades of cunning akin to the mouse in The Gruffalo when Max finally comes face to face with the object of his desire, as quick-thinking Mouse – strenuously denying his true identity – swiftly ushers Max off in the direction of… a Monster!
Vere plays with size (as he did very successfully at the other end of the scale in Mr Big), using Max’s diminutive stature for comic effect: the teeny kitty looks positively forlorn on the front cover, yet when he dons his cape, his posturing stance takes up a full page.
Fine artist Vere uses a wonderfully vibrant palette of colours as a backdrop to the animated action that brings a hint of Warholesque pop art. His use of black – for Max’s fur and many of the creatures that appear in dark silhouettes – adds dramatic punch.
Above all, this is a witty tale with a very appealing character as its hero. Even if he’s not really that brave, his feline frailty makes him all the more endearing. There’s also lots of ‘big’ and ‘small’ comparisons in Vere’s choice of animals, as the narrative zooms in and out of the action, as well as an underlying message that size and stature doesn’t always equate to being the smartest. And that’s a moral that little people will applaud.
Having said that, the real Mouse doesn’t get it all entirely his own way. After discovering the rather unsavoury aspects of a ‘Mouse’ with a cold (and the ferocity of his sneezes), Max contents himself with chasing ‘monsters’, ie Mouse, instead!
Fun fact The game of cat-and-mouse has proved an enduring theme for family entertainment, as epitomised by the slapstick antics of the classic animation Tom and Jerry. In its original run, Hanna and Barbera produced 114 Tom and Jerry shorts for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer from 1940 to 1957, winning seven Academy Awards for Animated Short Film.
Did you know? Tom, the grey and white short-hair domestic cat, was named ‘Jasper’ in his debut appearance, while Jerry, the small brown house mouse, was originally named ‘Jinx’ – but ‘Jasper and Jinx’ just doesn’t have quite the same ring about it, does it?
Author details Ed Vere studied fine art at Camberwell College of Art and has been writing and illustrating children’s books since 1999. His first picture book, ‘The Getaway’, won the Highland Children’s Book Award in 2007. His second, ‘Banana’, was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway prize in 2008. His third, ‘Mr Big’ was chosen by Booktrust as the official Booktime book for 2009 and was distributed to 750,000 British schoolchildren making it the largest single print run of a picture book. His fourth, ‘Chick’, (a pop-up book) won the Booktrust Early Years Award for best baby book for 2009. Ed was the World Book Day illustrator for 2009 and the official illustrator for Hay Fever, Hay Festival 2009. His book ‘Bedtime for Monsters’ was shortlisted for the 2011 Roald Dahl Funny Prize. Ed is also a painter, working from his studio in East London and is represented by galleries in London and Los Angeles. After a year and a half living in Barcelona, Ed now lives and works in London.