Picture Books: Sam Lloyd’s Mr Pusskins

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:35 pm

I am a huge fan of Sam Lloyd’s Mr Pusskins books, from a storytime presenter perspective as well as just someone who never really stopped enjoying picture books (yet another bonus of my job, really). There are three books in the series so far, and I’m hoping there will be more, because while all of Lloyd’s books are a delight, Mr Pusskins and co hold a special place in both my heart and my Storytime repertoire.

Mr Pusskins: A Love Story is the classic tale of the grump who comes good, as rendered through a cat and his ever-loving, long suffering owner, Emily.

Emily loves Mr Pusskins unconditionally, but Mr Pusskins does not have the same regard for Emily. He finds his safe, comfortable life boring and sets out for adventure, only to discover that the world away from Emily, while initially full of naughty fun with the Pesky Cat Gang, is actually a frightening and unhappy place. He must overcome his guilt and pride and atone for his bad behaviour to reclaim his place in Emily’s life.

It’s ostensibly a story about appreciating the good things in your life, and not taking the people who love you for granted. The story is snappy and smartly worded, but it’s Lloyd’s illustrations that are the true joy. Mr Pusskins has an hilariously expressive face (I think it’s the eyebrows, to be quite honest), and his emotions are rendered brilliantly.

In Mr Pusskins and Little Whiskers, Mr Pusskins is a reformed cat, but now he has to deal with competition for Emily’s love in the form of the new kitten, Little Whiskers. While Mr Pusskins himself was the antagonist of the first story, in the sequel, Little Whiskers must go through the experience of mistake and atonement, after she gets Mr Pusskins blamed for her own actions and banished from the house.

Mr Pusskins and Little Whiskers
has the added bonus of being a book that can be read to young children who have a new sibling on the way and aren’t sure what to expect; Mr Pusskins’ feelings toward the new arrival echo quite accurately the negative feelings many young children experience upon the birth of their new sibling, and his acceptance and growing love of his new adopted feline sibling provide a guideline for children struggling with their own sense of familial displacement.

Mr Pusskins: Best in Show sees Emily enter a grudging Mr Pusskins in a pet talent show. Initially unenthusiastic, he changes his mind when he sees the beautiful trophy, but unbeknown to him, there are other pets at the show who will stop short of nothing, including sabotage, to ensure it is theirs. Although tricked by a sneaky poodle, Mr Pusskins wins out in the end through his effort and talent, snaring a better trophy than the one he originally coveted. The book thus ends on a high note, while reminding the reader that winning isn’t everything and Emily would have loved Mr Pusskins regardless of the result.

The major joy of the Mr Pusskins books is that they’re sweet books that are essentially about love, but which manage to be so without being cloying or saccharine. Young children and adults alike will see themselves reflected in the main characters, whether it’s the two-footed one or the four-footed ones. The gentle humour and great illustrations are the icing on the cake, and they read aloud extremely well.

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