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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Mr Cat in Business
by Gianni Rodari
Age Range: 6-8
Mr Cat is very ambitious and wants to become rich so he decides to set up a business as a grocer selling tinned mice. He rents a shop, makes the necessary arrangements with the bank and buys all the proper equipment for his new business. He also hires a kitten as an assistant and employs another kitten as a delivery boy. Now the empty tins start to arrive and the problem is how to fill them with the product. Mr Cat tries desperately to convince the mice to cooperate with his new enterprise but to no avail. Unfortunately business does not go according to plan and Mr Cat decides to try his hand at selling mouse poison instead. It is the mice who have the last laugh in the end by becoming very rich, and all thanks to Mr Cat.
This is a very enjoyable tale of cat and mouse but with a different edge to it. The story is easy to read and Rodari’s sense of humour shines through. For example, when one of the kitten says ‘thank you’ twice, Mr Cat asks him why he repeats himself and he replies ‘once for the right ear and once for the left’. Mr Cat creates his own handwritten sign for his shop and the assistant congratulates him on the beautiful handwriting. Mr Cat replies ‘That’s nothing… when I write on the typewriter I can do even better’. This is the type of innocent humour that many children will surely find entertaining.
Mr Cat In Business is the first English edition that was published in the UK in 1975. Sadly, it has been out of print for many years but the original language edition is still selling well in Italy, so maybe a new translated and illustrated edition is now due in the UK, particularly as Rodari is one of the all time favourite children’s authors in his own country and has been translated into many languages all over the world.
Further Rodari titles that have been translated into English are: Telephone Tales(George G. Harrap & Co, 1965), The Befana’s Toyshop and A Pie in the Sky (J.M. Dent & Sons, 1970 and 1971), and Tales Told by a Machine (Abelard, 1976).