Ann Jungman on a small masterpiece that tackles tough themes…
Of all the wonderful books by Michael Morpurgo why would I choose to have written the early and short Mossop’s Last Chance? Well, because I think it is a small masterpiece and such works frequently go unsung and unrecognised in spite of being immensely hard to write and so valuable in the creation of readers.
On Muddlepuddle Farm there is a crisis – Mossop the ancient cat can no longer protect Farmer Rafferty’s grain from the mice. Mossop gets an ultimatum: either he catches twenty-six mice or he will have to go. The animals are devastated and try to help but only Albertine, the laterally thinking goose can come up with a viable plan. Either the mice line up and pretend to be dead or a new, sharp-toothed and clawed cat will come to the farm. The mice see the logic of her argument and oblige. Mossop is saved.
Charming and delightful as the book is, it also tackles tough themes. The scenes where Mossop sets off from the place he has lived all his life, his belongings in a red spotted scarf is heart breaking. Our inhumane treatment of both the old and animals is highlighted. Shoo Rayner’s witty and inspired pictures are part of a partnership made in heaven. Oh how I wish I had written this lovely book!
Mossop’s Last Chance is published in the Jets series by A & C Black (0 7136 2984 3, £6.50 hbk) and by Collins (0 00 673008 6, £3.50 pbk). Ann Jungman’s latest book is Dracula is Backula (Red Fox, 0 09 940158 4, £2.99 pbk).