Prowling through the backstreets of Paris, an alley-cat listens to Edith Piaf singing in a café. ‘Pfft…’ Cat says. ‘I can do that!’ But her yowling doesn’t please the audience and she’s forced to make a quick retreat. Climbing the fire-escape to Madame Delphine’s couture atelier, Cat discovers a nest of ‘silk and satin, tulle and taffeta’ where she falls fast asleep. ‘Pfft…’ she says, later, watching the seamstresses at work. ‘I can do that!’ Equipped with a stage outfit made from offcuts, Cat joins Josephine Baker’s chorus line. Soon she’s almost as famous as Chiquita, Josephine’s diamond-collared cheetah, but Cat is always restless and never stays still for long. Down in the Parisian Catacombs, she opens her own establishment where friends and family can dance the night away. But will Cat’s story end there? When you’re as adaptable and determined as she is, life really can take you anywhere!
Imaginatively evoking the sights, sounds and textures of inter-war Paris from an unusual viewpoint, this quirky book has much to offer. Intriguing vocabulary is employed throughout, from the snippets lying on the atelier floor to caterwauling in the catacombs, and although the bare bones of the story are accessible to younger children, there’s plenty to interest older readers, too. Piet Grobler’s illustrations add more than a dash of sophisticated je-ne-sais-quoi to the experience: his cats were born fighting over fish-heads, and their expressive fluidity and joie-de-vivre is matched by a potential for capricious disorder that unnerves as much as it pleases. These disreputable characters are far from being the cute little kitties of many storybooks. They are ‘dancing the night away in the most amazing outfits’ sewn by ‘very sharp claws’ and will appeal to curious readers who enjoy the unexpected.
Paris Cat draws on factual information about two of the most celebrated performers in the city at this time, and short biographies of Edith Piaf and Josephine Baker are included for those who want to know more. An appealing collage map of the city featuring the locations of Cat’s favourite ‘poissoneries’ alongside the more usual landmarks is also included.