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Monday, 1 May 2017

Mog and The Baby

Mog and The Baby
Author and Illustrator: Judith Kerr
Publisher: First published by William Collins Sons & Co in 1980, edition featured published by HarperCollins Children's Books, 2005

By far my favourite Judith Kerr book, and a twist on the 'Mog's mishaps' narrative, in that this time, it's not Mog but a human baby causing all the misadventure. The book starts quietly, with Nicky (the Thomas family's youngest) off school with a cold playing contently with family pet, the tabby cat, Mog. The day is then interrupted with the arrival of Mrs Clutterbuck and her red, screaming baby whom mum of the household, Mrs Thomas, has agreed to look after while Mrs Clutterbuck goes shopping. The excuse as to why the baby is left with the Thomas family certainly didn't wash with Bert (5), who suggested that the baby might fall asleep in the trolley; neighbourly common practice in the 1980s when the book was first written, clearly not such an occurrence in our house today.     

Now for the real humour, and certainly a more upbeat, cheeky contribution to the, at times, very dark, Mog series: Mrs Clutterbuck's baby takes a real shine to Mog, Mog is much less keen on the baby. There's some fantastic illustrations in the book of the toddling, grabby-handed baby pounding their way toward Mog; Mog's reactions are comedic, big eyes, narrow eyes, disdain- very funny. The whole book in fact, tells the story exceptionally well, in just the illustrations, so an ideal story for very young children (2+ years).  

As is convention in the Mog series, Judith Kerr uses repetition, short stanza and echo-back here, stressing a piece of dialogue or more commonly one of Mog's (usually quite misguided) ideas (for example, the famous line, 'Mog had a dream. It was a lovely dream. It was a dream about babies.' In this book, echo back is used to stress sections of dialogue, with Mrs Clutterback asking, 'Will my baby be alright with your cat?' and Mrs Thomas constantly reassuring everyone 'oh yes, Mog loves babies.'  The joke, of course, is that the reader sees the illustration of Mog looking grumpy and certainly not like she 'loves babies.' This is clearly unrequited love on the part of the baby.  

The humour continues as the baby insists on interaction with Mog. From having a big chubby arm round Mog, we then see the baby and Mog out and about, in prams - Mog in a bonnet, the baby looking-on eagerly, lovingly. 

 As per the other Mog Collection books, things go from bad to worse for Mog, with the baby eating Mog's food (and we know from previous books, food gets Mog where it hurts!)
Then chaos really ensues when the baby starts to cry. Cue another repetitious phrase in the book, with the baby saying 'Psss, Psss, Psss' in order to demand the attention of Mog, and this is followed by the usual dream-kittens sequence, so iconic of the series. 

What happens next can be initially quite frightening for children; Mog has had enough and escapes away from the baby out of a window, the baby follows. Taken as a warning that appropriates road safety, this is a highly dramatic, suspense filled moment in the book, that my children love. The Thomas' car hurtling toward baby and Mog (who, like in Mog the Forgetful Cat, gets frightened of a neighbouring dog and so runs, but just as with that book, ends up being the real hero, having this time pushed the baby away).  What a fantastically satisfying hero-and-reward ending  (just like the original). 

With all the similarities and repetitious lines of the first books in the series, this edition still really holds its own, with these lovely meaningful expressions on Mog's face, an 'in' joke with the audience and a treat for fans and those new to the books alike. This book is so simple, and yet such a delight to read-aloud. Mrs Clutterbuck, to me, is read in a loud, bossy Miranda Hart style way, becoming hysterical.  Mrs Thomas is an exasperated voice, but putting on a brave face. Nicky, as in all the Mog stories, is siding with Mog, and grumbling on her behalf: 'Look what it's done.' There's less retell of Mog's thoughts in this one, but instead the expressions say much more. 

In all then, a really funny contribution to the classic Mog series, and with really hard-hitting newer contributions to the series, such as 'Goodnight Mog' (spoiler alert* Mog dies!), this book makes a welcome balance to the collection, offering such light, amusing relief.  Mog at her best!

If you like this book, you might also like: This Is The Bear by by Sarah Hayes and Helen Craig

Also, my children absolutely loved this video at Christmas, a familiar and lovable feline hero getting into lots of extreme festive mishaps: Sainsbury’s OFFICIAL Christmas Advert 2015 – Mog’s Christmas Calamity  Enjoy!

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