Picture Book Snob
A Cat and Mouse Tale with a Twist
Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton
This book was originally purchased a few years ago, long before school was on the horizon, just because we had a black cat. It was read so often that it fell to pieces and was eventually thrown out. I intended to get a replacement, but kept forgetting.
While looking for school-themed stories, I thought of Splat and ordered a new copy. I’m so glad I did as it’s even better than I remembered. Not only is Splat the Cat brilliant for helping to calm pre-starting-school nerves, the story is action-packed, and highly entertaining.
Splat is terrified of going to cat school and invents hilarious reasons to try to convince his mother to let him stay at home. He decides to take his best friend, Seymour, with him for moral support. The only problem is that Seymour is a mouse, a controversial choice of companion for a cat!
One of Splat’s first lessons at school is all about how cats chase mice, although his teacher is unable to explain why. When Seymour escapes from his hiding place, all of Splat’s classmates descend on him. Will Splat have to choose between his new pals and his oldest friend, or can he keep both?
The circular narrative makes the story feel comforting, as does the contrast between Splat’s emotions at the start and the end. The book begins with Splat contemplating school in bed one morning and ends with him waking the following day feeling completely different. We see him going to and returning from school in the opening and closing pages with obvious changes to his mood and attitude.
I love how Splat’s tail reflects his state of mind, even looking like a question mark when he has a query. On the first page, when Splat is dreading the day ahead, his tail wiggles “wildly with worry.” On the final page, when he is looking forward to school, his tail wiggles “wildly with excitement.”
Splat’s facial expressions really make the book; his signature shell-shocked appearance is so funny. All the cats have exceptionally animated and amusing faces. Cat owners and parents will relate to how tightly Splat clings to his mother; the indents of his claws clearly visible.
There is so much detail on every page, even down to the books on Splat’s shelf (including Dogs are from Mars, Cats are from Venus). Splat’s universe is elaborate and fully realised. Scotton is meticulous in bringing Splat’s world to life with fish-themed décor, cat café delicacies, chalk drawings, Splat’s artwork and anti-dog posters in the background.
Seymour and Splat gently challenge stereotypes and show it’s OK to be different; Splat’s new friends accept him and Seymour and their unconventional relationship. Like all the best teachers, Mrs. Wimpydimple helps Splat to believe in himself (for some reason, I'm convinced she sounds exactly like Meryl Streep playing Julia Child in Julia & Julia).
When I originally picked this up in a bookshop in 2016, I hadn’t realised Splat was famous. Splat the Cat was a New York Times bestseller and one of Time magazine's top picture books of 2008. There’s even a free Splat app!
Author and illustrator Rob Scotton was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal in 2005 for Russell the Sheep. Scotton has written several more Splat and Russell books and his artwork can also be found on greeting cards, ceramics, textiles, prints, stationery, and glassware. The real-life inspiration behind Splat was Scotton’s neighbour’s clumsy cat who regularly tormented him.
While I wouldn’t wish a rogue neighbourhood cat on anyone, I’m glad this one existed and led to Splat’s creation. I can’t believe how many stories there are in the series, there seems to be one for every occasion. I’m looking forward to more of Splat and Seymour’s escapades - if you have a favourite Splat story, please let me know.
PS. If you think a close friendship between a cat and a mouse is unlikely, take a look these images!
Title: Splat the Cat Author: Rob Scotton
Publication Date: 4th August 2008