When did children’s books become so Meta? Back in the day each Thomas the Tank Engine adventure was separate from the other as if they lived in their own episodic wildness, but not today. In this world of Nintendo Switches and online platforms the average adult is too scared to venture onto, we have metaphysical children books. Books that reflect back on previous outings in the series. If you are going to get the most out of ‘‘Oi Cat!’’, you best know about your ‘‘Oi Frog!’’ and ‘‘Oi Dog!’’ too.
When we last left the creatures of ‘‘Oi Frog and Friends’’ world they perched precariously on a selection of odd items. One unhappy customer of Frogs rhyming solution was Cat. This feline found itself having to sit on gnats and that is not a comfortable place to be. Therefore, Cat goes about looking for an alternative place to nestle, but Frog won’t let Cat off easily – you must follow the rules.
Both original outings by Kes Gray and Jim Field were examples of daft excellence. ‘‘Frog’’ and ‘‘Dog’’ are basically books about rhyming animals with silly things. The fun is in seeing Field’s illustrations as he shows a pony having to sit in macaroni etc. Things are little different in ‘‘Oi Cat!’’, but there is a twist. The rules that Frog makes everyone live by come to the fore. In this dictatorial landscape we find our hero, Cat. The book plays a little on gentle questioning of authority, but really it is still an excuse to have a load of animals doing silly things.
The combination of Gray’s writing and Field’s illustrations work wonderfully once again, no matter what Gray fires at Field, he can draw it. Fans of the series will love this outing as it is essentially more of the same, but delve a little deeper and it is playing with the lore of the world. Not many children’s books create a universe in which the characters inhabit, but Gray has achieved it. New readers to the books would be best tackling them in order as you will otherwise lose out on some of the in jokes and the bigger picture. Fans should grab this with abandon, they will especially love the ending.