By Author / Illustrator
Faber & Faber
From twice-Kate Greenaway WINNER comes an exquisite story within a story, featuring a mouse who is forced to tell stories to save his life, a cat who plans to eat said mouse as soon as the story is finished, and our protagonist's protagonist, a princess in trouble.
Gorgonzola watched Brie with her tail twitching . . . then she pounced. Brie the mouse is caught between the claws of Gorgonzola the cat. Desperate to survive, Brie starts telling Gorgonzola a story . . . It's a showstopping tale - about a runaway princess, a cat that can grow to the size of a panther, an enchanted feast, a vanishing cavern and a quest to find a magical herb . . . But Gorgonzola is getting hungry . . . If Brie wants his life to be spared, this must be the best story he has ever told.
A dazzling story within a story that you won't be able to put down and accompanied with stunning interior artwork by Helen Cooper. Here, Helen introduces The Taming of the Cat and reads a short section from the story. You can also read Helen's Q&A, here.
The Taming of the Cat is a charming (and cheese-filled) classic tale-within-a-tale story that enchants the reader completely. A nightly story is told by little mouse Brie, inside the cheese shop in which he lives, to fierce feline and enemy, Gorgonzola the cat. The minute mouse's imagination weaves magic in order to save his life and those of his cruel fellow colony of mice; they mock and dismiss his love of the pictures on cheese labels and the ideas and inspirations they give him, yet use his skills in capturing Gongonzola's attention in order to venture out of their mousehole and feast on cheese each night.
Brie's tales of Camembert Castle, Princess Mimolette and Silk, the magic cat, are tantalizing and fascinating to mouse-murderer Gongonzola, so much so that, leaving the cat with a breath-taking cliffhanger each night, ensures another day of life for Brie (and another safe night of selfish food-gathering for his undeserving colony). As the evenings pass, the unlikely and unimaginable bond between fearsome feline and this marvellous mouse begins to grow and change until the story of these two characters carries as much weight and warmth as the story that lies between them in the fantasy world of Camembert, to which Brie returns them again and again.
The tales are so full of humour, magic and have a real folktale/fairytale feel about them. Bravery and boldness are celebrated and any (truly wicked) villains get their comeuppance. Powerful spells, decadent underground feasts, dark shape-shifting magic, feared dragons and long lasting loyalties between family and friends spill out from tiny Brie's enormous imagination. Gorgonzola engages utterly in the fantasy as time goes on; prompting , suggesting and absorbing Brie's words and, it seems, becoming changed herself by the heart and values that Brie's words hold.
It is a beautiful, whimsical and wonderfully illustrated escape into fantastical worlds that feel fresh and fun yet with comforting, familiar threads around them.
240 pages / Reviewed by Jennifer Caddick, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 7+
Brie is an unusual mouse. Unlike the other mice in the cheese shop colony, he prefers breadcrumbs and grain to cheese and has a head full of stories. These things do not endear him to the other mice and he finds himself lonely - and cold. Seeking warmth, Brie finds himself caught in the paws of the fearsome Gorgonzola, the cheese shop cat. In this life-or-death situation, Brie decides to distract Gorgonzola by telling her stories inspired by the labels on the different cheeses. Caught between the animosity of his mouse community and the threat of death by cat, he must weave a tale which will change his life.
In the tradition of Scheherazade in Arabian Nights, the tales told by Brie in The Taming of the Cat are framed by his own life story, making this a wonderfully rich and entertaining book with plenty to recommend it. The nature of cats and their predator/ prey relationship with mice is not shied away from, but this is an important part of the story, building a clear picture of Gorgonzola's personality and increasing the sense of tension and the feeling of peril for Brie's situation.
Brie is a wonderful character. Different from the other mice, he is victimised for being different, for having his own interests. Although his relationship with Gorgonzola begins through necessity as Brie wishes to survive, it develops into a true friendship, something which is lacking in his fellows, offering plenty to discuss.
In Gorgonzola, Helen Cooper has captured a real essence of cat which is a joy to read! The story which Brie tells is shaped and developed in response to Gorgonzola's interests and whims, as much as it is inspired by the pictures and names on the cheese labels. It is a magical tale and one which is sure to inspire children to create stories of their own - perhaps as a collaborative activity, sparked by things around them.
Lavishly illustrated, the book is full of pictures to linger over and enjoy, the perfect complement to the story.
240 pages / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 9+