Just Imagine

Captain Cat

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About the Author

Inga Moore is a highly distinguished author and illustrator of children’s books. She has illustrated many classics to much critical acclaim, including Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willow and  Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. Her other picture book titles include A House in the Woods, The Truffle Hunter and the award-winning Six Dinner Sid, which is now considered a classic children’s favourite. The children may already be familiar with Inga Moore’s books. Invite them to share what they already know about the author and her books.

About the Book

Captain Cat loves two things: cats (obviously) and dreaming of far off lands and distance places he longs to visit. One day, he suddenly decides to sail west and see all the wonderful places on his charts and maps. He travels through terrible winds, menacing clouds and over crashing waves until he reaches a remote island at the edge of the world. It is here that Captain Cat realises the true value and worth of his beloved felines and the importance of friendship and family.

This is a delightful adventure story full of new lands, a sassy Queen, delicious feasts, untold treasures, greedy merchants and, of course, a shipful of cats! This simple story is told in a relaxed, chatty tone and younger readers will find the story easy to understand, whilst some of the vocabulary will challenge and extend them. The illustrations are traditional, with a dreamy, romantic quality and offer the chance for readers to explore characterisation at a deeper

Before Reading

Cover the title of the book. Ask the children what they think the title might be and why. Reveal the title.

Follow-up prompts might include:

  • What sort of story do you think this will be and why?
  • Do you know any other adventure stories?
  • What happens in them?
  • What makes a good adventure story?
  • Do any of you have a cat?
  • Would you like as many cats as Captain Cat?

First encounters

Allow some time for the children to explore the book up to the page where Captain Cat arrives at the forgotten, far-off island. You can use a paperclip to secure the pages so the children don’t read past this page. If possible, it is best for the children to have their own copy, they can read at their own pace and write down their responses.

  • Is there anything that puzzles them about the book?
  • Do they have any questions?
  • Is there an image they like or dislike?

Use the children’s questions to initiate a discussion – they will be more engaged if it is something they are genuinely interested in. Some questions might be answered easily, whilst others may need to be explored at a later date or after further exploration of the book.

During Reading

At all stages, invite the children to share their ideas and responses. Avoid asking too many leading or closed questions. The prompts below are intended to be used as supplementary questions, for some particularly interesting pages. Please select or adapt those which you think are most appropriate for the children you are working with. They will ask and answer many of their own questions if they are encouraged to look closely at the pictures and discuss their ideas.

Pages 1-2

  • Which character do you think is Captain Cat? Why?
  • Why do you think the ship is called the Carlotta?
  • How do you think the sailors feel about Captain Cat?

Pages 3-4

Invite the children to share their responses to this page.

Questions may include:

  • What feeling or atmosphere is created on this spread.
  • How has the illustrator created that feelin/atmosphere?
  • Are there any places you’d like to visit? Why?
  • What is a ‘trader’?

Pages 9-10

What is a periwinkle? Can the children use an iPad, encyclopaedia or dictionary to find out?

Invite the children to discuss what image the phrases ‘the wind stiffened’ and ‘inky-black clouds appeared’ and ‘mountainous waves’ conjures up for them?

Create a freeze-frame of this scene, paying attention to the character’s thoughts and feelings?

Pages 13-16

What might the Queen may by thinking and feeling as she sees Captain Cat and his ship? Remember, the Queen has never seen a cat before! Use thought bubble shaped Post-its to write on and have the children place them in their copy of the book.

Page 24

Invite the children to discuss the phrase, ‘waving a careless hand…’. What does this suggest about the Queen? Be careful not to ask too many leading questions as each child’s response may be different. Some might see it as a sign of arrogance and greed, whilst others may view it as indicative of her desperation – she will do anything to keep the cats and catch the rats!

Pages 25-28

Stop the children after they have read:

‘So what did he do? Did Captain Cat give his cats to the Queen?’

  • What do they think he will do? Why?
  • Are they surprised when he does swap the cats for the treasure? Has their opinion of him changed?

Use thought bubble Post-it’s to describe how Captain Cat is feeling and stick them in the book?

Have you ever had to make a difficult decision that has made you sad?

Pages 33-41

What does the verb ‘showered’ imply about how the traders gave their gifts to the Queen?

Invite the children to discuss what they think the Queen will give the traders in return for their goods.

How does the author build the suspense and tension in this section?

What does the phrase ‘with pride and pleasure’ tell you about the Queen? Do you think she is playing a trick on the merchants?

Why are the traders ‘disgusted’? Do you think they got their comeuppance?

Pages 41-46

What does the phrase ‘where his heart was’ mean?

How do you think Captain Cat has changed over the course of the story? What has he learnt about himself?

Do you know any other stories where the main character has learnt a valuable lesson?

One review (The Observer) has written that this book is about ‘the holiness of the heart’s affections’. What do you think this means? Can you give any examples?

Were you surprised by the ending? What do you think might happen next?

After Reading


Vocabulary journal

Identify a set of target words for teaching. Suggestions are given below, but chose those most appropriate for your class or group.

Get the children to read through the list of words with their partner. Find each of the words or phrases in Captain Cat. Write down the sentence in the story in which each word appears.

Discuss in pairs what they the children think each word means.

Share their ideas, directing attention to where they may have heard or seen the words before.

Next, they use a dictionary to check ideas. Use more than one dictionary to check for nuances of meaning and identify the best fit definition. Which is closest to the context? Write the definition in your journal.

Reread the text and decide which meanings make the best sense to the story. Finally ask them to write their own sentence

 Best printed in landscape. 


New word Sentence in story What I think it means Looks like or sounds like Dictionary definitions My own sentence
trader (p.3)
moth-eaten (p.4)
remote (p11)
inspected (p. 23)

Count the cats!

How many cats can you spot in each picture?

A female cat can have, on average, three litters of kittens a year. How many litters will she have in two years? Four? Ten?

There are usually five kittens in each litter. How many kittens in three litters? Five litters?

Similar stories

The children may wish to read some other traditional tales including cats, such as Puss in Boots , The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S Eliot,  The Cat Mummy by Jacqueline Wilson, or even Tailchaser’s Song by Tad Williams.

History of Cats

The Ancient Egyptians held cats in very high esteem and even worshipped a Cat Goddess, called Bastet. Cats could control vermin and kill snakes and so became a symbol of grace and poise. Can the children create a report on cats in Ancient Egypt, thinking about their importance, what they symbolised and how cats were represented in art and sculpture.

Theme Cards

After reading Captain Cat, ask the children to read the big ideas below. Encourage them to talk to their partner about which of these big ideas is the most important in the story and why.

Friendship is worth more than money or gold You should travel and see the world


Don’t be greedy



Animals are an important part of our lives and should be looked after Don’t let others put you off from following your dreams You must go through hard times to realise what is important