Newest Review: ... very tired, seeks out a suitable place indoors for her nap; I won't spoil the story for you, but her final choice makes you want to smil... more
Plans for a cat-nap come unstuck!
Toffee Takes a Nap - Sally Chambers
Member Name: Verbena
Toffee Takes a Nap - Sally Chambers
Advantages: Lovely story and illustrations for small children
Disadvantages: None that I can think of.
~~ Introduction ~~
Toffee Takes a Nap by Sally Chambers
© Sally Chambers 2000
Piccadilly Press, London
ISBN 1 85340 617 1 paperback - my copy was priced at £4.99. The Amazon U.K. website, accessed 6/2/12, has it priced at £7.00, from £0.01 used, or £19.99 in hardback format: ISBN 1 85340 612 0.
My copy says that Sally lives in Hayes, Kent. She has written and illustrated a number of picture books.
Other books are available in the 'Toffee' series, i.e. Toffee In Trouble, Toffee's Night Noises and Toffee's New Friend. She has also written others including the 'Wilbie' series and 'Barty Ketchup.' I've read 'Toffee's Night Noises' to children quite often and it's very popular with them.
~~Précis of the Story~~
The scene is set on a warm sunny day, clearly in summer as shown by bees, butterflies and flowers. Toffee the cat is basking in the sun, as cats will, and falls asleep at the side of the garden pond. She begins to dream but unfortunately has a nasty surprise when she rolls over and falls in! She dries off in the sun and tries to sleep again. I hope it's not a spoiler to say that this is just the first attempt to have a peaceful nap. She is thwarted by noisy 'neighbours' and narrowly avoids a fight, so Toffee, by now feeling very tired, seeks out a suitable place indoors for her nap; I won't spoil the story for you, but her final choice makes you want to smile, especially if you know cats!
~~ Some Analysis ~~
This is a story for very young children. It's the kind of simple story that would be suitable to share with babies at around nine months of age, but it would still hold the interest of children who are will soon to be able to read independently or are beginning to do so, for instance, children in Year 1 in a school in England [5 -6 years old] If you're reading it with a small child, don't be surprised if you are requested to read it over and over again - it's that kind of book. It's written in a direct style, using short words and sentences. The setting is domestic: a garden & house that will be familiar to most children. Garland jumps right into the action by briefly setting the scene and allowing Toffee to fall asleep straight away. She uses a dialogue style when indicating the noises made by the various creatures in the story. There is some use of alliteration [where a consonantal sound is repeated] and assonance [repetition of a vowel sound] sparingly: 'Toffee to take' and 'lovely sunny' so it doesn't seem contrived. I really dislike it when words are put in children's stories simply to alliterate or rhyme, and it seems artificial - it's not the case here. It is very simple, but if you look at it closely it does contain the core components of a true story: theme: Toffee's need of sleep; plot: involving conflict - here the obstacles to her getting sleep. Scenes are used to show the conflict with its initial success and seeming reversals until we begin to move towards the resolution when Toffee goes indoors through the cat flap. Children will probably empathise with her tiredness when they see the illustration where she yawns widely! Her character is identified in part by the way 'she doesn't want to fight' and she is frightened. Toffee is clearly a conflict-avoider - or, to be slightly unkind perhaps, a bit of a scaredy cat! Actually, come to think about it, it would be quite a useful book to use with children to analyse what makes a story.
~~ Comments on the Material Aspects ~~
The frontispiece indicates that the font is set in 32pt Bembo, not a font I am familiar with. It doesn't have the lower case 'a' without the curve at the top, as young children learn to write it, which is how fonts like Sassoon and Century produce this letter, but it is clear and pleasing to my eye. 32 pt is large and I feel it has the effect of drawing your eye to the text on the page - again useful for early readers.
From the illustration angle, I find it appealing. Toffee is portrayed as a rather cute, brown and orange striped cat with a white face, belly, paws & tail tip. The other cat in the story is not portrayed so appealingly, but this is in character! I like the sense of drama in the illustrations, for instance, when Toffee falls in the pond. I also like the way her ears turn down when something goes wrong, and the animation on the faces of the little birds, as well as Tom's grumpiness; it all adds to the overall impact of the story.
~~ In Conclusion ~~
I find this a visually attractive, well thought-out story that would appeal to children from babyhood through to the age of 6 or so. The simple but dramatic text, with its changes of mood, makes it a joy to read aloud and share with children. It is simple enough for slightly older children to look at or maybe even read alone or with a little support. It has all the main elements of a good story but in a simple, embryonic form. It's a theme that children will identify with, particularly if they own or know about cats. It's also great fun which is a very important factor and I highly recommend it!
I have to give it a 5 star rating.
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Summary: The story of one cat's quest to have a nap on a warm day, against the odds.