Cats and history in one story? There was no way this wasn’t going to be on my radar!
Book: Museum Kittens: The Pharaoh’s Curse by Holly Webb, illustrated by Sarah Lodge
Read before: No
Publication date: 3rd September 2020
Ownership: Review copy sent free of charge by Little Tiger Books. All opinions my own.
Content warning: Mention of drowning unwanted kittens.
I’ll start by saying that I haven’t read the first book in the Museum Kittens series, The Midnight Visitor, and while I will be putting it on my TBR, I didn’t in any way need to know what happened there to follow the plot of The Pharaoh’s Curse. The series follows four kittens who are part of a community of cats who live in, and look after, a large museum, and the adventures they have – this book starts with a mysterious papyrus being delivered to the Egyptian gallery, a long lost part of the Book of the Dead. The kittens ask Grandpa Ivan about it, and he tells them that the humans believe there may be a curse on the papyrus… then things start going wrong around the museum! Is it an Ancient Egyptian curse, or could it be the work of some pesky rats looking to take over from the cats?
This is really cute! The combination of history facts and cat adventures works really well, and I can see plenty of fun opportunities in a museum for future books in the series. I enjoyed the little factual section about the Curse of King Tut at the end of the book, too – that’s the kind of thing I always adored finding as a kid. There are black and white illustrations on most pages, which are very cute and though I would have perhaps liked to see a few more backgrounds to get a sense of the museum, the pictures really help to bring the personalities of the cats to life!
Though the book has an ensemble cast, Tasha the tabby kitten is more in focus than the others, and I assume that different books will focus on different kittens. Tasha is very sweet – she longs to be sleek and grown up rather than a scruffy kitten, which is easy to identify with, and I really liked how much she loved the statue of Bastet in the gallery. There’s a tiny hint of the supernatural which I won’t spoil, but it was just adorable how Tasha would talk to the statue and try to live up to her impression of the goddess. I also really enjoyed clumsy Boris with his power tool obsession – at first you think it’s rather a funny interest for a kitten, but have you ever met a cat that didn’t want to be involved when you start doing a DIY project? All four kittens are nicely differentiated, and the way they work together to solve problems is lovely to read.
My favourite part of the whole thing was Grandpa Ivan, who is a very old white cat with one eye. He is wise and kind, if a little crotchety, and it’s great to have a one-eyed cat shown in such a positive light, as hopefully it will help teach kids that these cats are just as deserving of love as a perfect new kitten. I also loved that even though he is the responsible adult the kittens fetch when the adventure becomes too much for them, he is also shown to have his own issues; his fear of drowning, stemming from when he was a kitten, was well-handled. I do think that I wouldn’t like to explain the concept of drowning unwanted kittens to a child, especially a sensitive one, as it’s something I still find upsetting as an adult, so I was surprised it was included so clearly – you’ll have to judge yourself whether it’s suitable for a particular reader.
As a kid I was an Ancient Egyptian nerd and a cat lover, so this would have suited me right down to the ground. I really appreciated that it’s a cat book that avoids being soppy – the focus is on the kittens having fun and slightly perilous escapades, rather than needing to be rescued! I’ve said before that I don’t believe in allocating kids’ books by gender, but this isn’t a book that boys would deem too ‘girly’ like a lot of cat stories can be (incidentally, why? And why are all the baby clothes with cats on pink??). I’ll definitely be looking out for the rest of the Museum Kittens books – four out of five cats!