Melanie McDonagh Melanie McDonagh

Cat among the pigeons

Judith Kerr’s cat Katinka has a magical tail, while Enid Marx’s carrier pigeons help win the second world war

Back in 1990, Roald Dahl wrote a book called The Minpins, which was illustrated by Patrick Benson, a very good artist. By now we regard Dahl (when writing for children) to be inescapably linked with Quentin Blake, to the point where any other combination seems fundamentally unsatisfactory, like trying to decouple Goscinny and Uderzo in the Asterix books, or Kenneth Grahame and Ernest Shepard for The Wind in the Willows. The whole is somehow bigger than both halves. So it’s a matter of pure delight that Blake has now illustrated the book (Puffin, £10.99). At a stroke, the atmosphere of the story has changed from menacing to spirited and intrepid. The Midas touch of QB has worked again. As he says, it ‘felt almost like a new Roald Dahl book that I had never read before’. And what could be better than that?

Sometimes, you just want to go back to your own childhood, for which purpose I warmly recommend a lovely collector’s edition of Tove Jansson’s four early Moomin books (Sort of Books, £10.99 each). They are things of joy. There is also The Invisible Child and The Fir Tree (Sort of Books, £4.99) — two stories from Tales from Moominvalley, sold in aid of Oxfam. And to round off the Moomin orgy, there’s a whopping, beautifully illustrated guide to The World of Moominvalley (Macmillan, £35) by one of its fans, Philip Ardagh, with an additional eulogy by Frank Cottrell Boyce.

Judith Kerr is another inimitable illustrator, whose kindly view of the world emerges from every drawing she does, from The Tiger who Came to Tea to her latest book, Katinka’s Tail (Harper Collins, £12.99) — about her cat and its tail, which does quite remarkable things at night. We are used to children going on night-time adventures, but now it’s the turn of a 93-year-old lady.

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