Reviews /

Archie Snufflekins

Authored by Katie Harnett
Illustrated by Katie Harnett
Published by Flying Eye Books

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If you’re someone who loves cats, you won’t fail to love this picture book and be won over by the charm of Archie Snufflekins. Archie Snufflekins or Cupcake, Oliver, Kitty, Tiberius, Fred or just simply Archie is a cat who lives on Blossom St and is fed, petted and loved by everyone who lives on this street. In each house he visits he has a new name and has a different activity in each house: breakfast at number three; tea at number nine to swing dances at number six; sitting for Miss Fernandez as she paints at eighteen, gardening at number fourteen and more. A very clever cat! And a very varied life! I say everyone, but as we read the story, we find that there’s one house in the street, he hasn’t visited: number eleven. Then one day he sits on a parcel delivered there and once inside he finds it’s a home with everything he needs: wool to play with while Mrs Murray knits and lots of peace, quiet and company by the fireside. And from then on, everyone in all the other houses visit number eleven to visit him and it becomes a place where ‘friends visit often’.

I couldn’t write a review of Archie Snufflekins without mentioning a reminder to a memorable classic picture book about another enterprising cat, Six Dinner Sid. Sid, like Archie, lives on a street, Aristotle Street, and like Archie, visited each house every day. The difference being in this story is that all the residents believed Sid was their cat until Sid gets ill and the vet blows his cover. The other difference is that these residents are not friendly, which leads Sid to move to Pythagoras Place, where everyone is happy to share him. I like to think Sid and Archie don’t live too far away from each other and occasionally meet up to share experiences together!

Harnett’s illustrations with humorous speech bubbles complement the story beautifully in pencil drawn muted colours throughout and give detailed insights into all the interesting people who reside in Blossom Street. I can imagine lots of discussions with children about each character’s life, such as who the bird watchers are at number one and where Mr Green goes to catch his fish. There is also the suggestion of some sadness when we see into Mrs Murray’s house at number eleven as there is a whole alcove of shelves devoted to dog ornaments, which could suggest that not only has she mostly had dogs in the past as pets but that she may have lost many too.

Archie Snufflekins offers a great opportunity in the classroom for being imaginative and creating other cats, with different names, in other streets, with new residents. It is also a joyful story to read aloud in nursery, reception and Year 1 classrooms and at home too, that I am sure will be reread over and over. This is a heart-warming debut story from Katie Harnet, who shows how one small change can bring communities together and forge new friendships and remind us that loneliness can be just next door to us.