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The Whisperer by Nick Butterworth
Published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2004

It will come as no surprise to learn that “The Whisperer” has been shortlisted for this year’s Kate Greenaway Medal, a prestigious award recognising outstanding illustration in a children’s book. There is a cinematic quality to the pictures in this book, making you feel as if you are sitting in a darkened cinema watching as this epic story of love and violence unfolds.

This picture book is a visual treat, but not at the expense of the engaging feline Romeo and Juliet story which is narrated by a shifty, yellowed-eyed rat, who scuttles around the urban foreground detail. The reader will enjoy searching for the rat in each page - sometimes he makes his presence felt as just a nose peering out from behind a wall, sometimes as a reflection in a broken car mirror.

Cute and cuddly the two rival inner-city cat gangs of the story, the gingers and the black and whites, are not, and the opening pages sees them throwing punches and worse. It is bad news for rat when Amber and Monty, son and daughter of the rival gang leaders fall in love because all the time the cats are fighting amongst themselves, rat is free to go about his business. So he starts a whispering campaign to alert the gangs to what is going on. The families issue an ultimatum – the couple must choose their families or each other and banishment. Much to rats delight they choose the latter. But in time the outcasts return bringing a disturbing piece of news which signals the end for rat.

This is a terrific story from the author of the best-selling Percy the Park Keeper series which will be enjoyed by the young and not so young.

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