Ottoline and The Yellow Cat
Author: Chris Riddell
Illustrator: Chris Riddell
Synopsis: Ottoline lives in a stylish apartment in Big City with a small hairy creature called Mr. Munroe. Together they look after the Brown family's eclectic collections - and dabble in a spot of detective work. So they are the first to the scene of the crime when a string of high-society dog-nappings and jewel thefts hits Big City. Ottoline (who luckily has a diploma from the Who-R-U Academy of Disguise) and Mr. Munroe go undercover - and expose an ingenious scam masterminded by furry feline crook, the Yellow Cat.
Selection notes: A perfect blend of word and image in this illustrated fiction for junior readers. Riddell brings the wit of the political cartoonist to this quirky mystery. Suitable for a wide age range from 7+ There are lots of clues to unpick and this is a great text for looking at the way foreshadowing works in mystery stories.
Research Chris Riddell.
Some things to investigate:
- Children’s Laureate 2015 – 2017 #laureateslog
- His work as a political cartoonist
- Partnership with Paul Stewart and their series The Edge Chronicles
- Other illustrated work e.g. Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, The Graveyard Book, Fortunately the Milk and The Sleeper and the Spindle
Around the World
Throughout the book there are lots of references to different countries. Display a map and add small identification flags or pins each time a new place is mentioned. Make a class collection of postcards from different places.
What’s in a Name?
Invite the children to consider what kind of character they think someone with the name Ottoline might be. Is it a common name? Create a list of their ideas. T
Display the cover image of Ottoline and ask whether they want to add anything to the list based on this image. Diret attention towards Ottoline’s expression, her clothes and the objects she is holding.
Introduce the title of the book ‘Ottoline and the Yellow Cat.
Watching and listening
There are lots of opportunities for you to pause to reflect on the stories within stories. For example, on pp18-19 Ottoline listens to the conversations from the other flats by holding her ear to the pipes in the basement ceiling. Invite the children to imagine what is happening:
Normally Cecil is such a good boy but last Thursday… (what happened?)
…Now I only ever take showers never baths… (why?)
Make the point that stories come from good listening and watching. Illustrators often carry sketchbooks to draw the things they observe and writers often have notebooks to jot down ideas and snippets of conversation.
Good detectives also need to be good observers and listeners. Ottoline keeps a journal.
After reading the pages from Ottoline’s notebook, talk about the connections in the stories and to what has already happened in chapter 1.
Illustration pp 36 – 37 What is happening in this picture? What objects can you see? What is the cockatoo doing?
Interesting vocabulary: subterfuge discuss the meaning and etymology and invite the children to contribute instances of hearing the word used or reading this word in other stories.
Page numbers – look at the way Chris Riddell has numbered the pages. Look back at chapter one. What do you notice? Can you predict how chapter 3 might be numbered?
The Postcard Collection: In this chapter we find out about Ottoline’s second collection, a boo of postcards from her parents
What impression do you form of Ottoline’s parents from reading the postcards? Do you think Ottoline likes to receive the postcards? What makes you think that?
Mealtimes pp 14 – 15, pp 52 – 53, pp 66 – 67 compare these three meal scenes. What is the same? What is different? (see also pp 122-123 later in the story)
Humour: How does Chris Riddell make Mr Monroe’s attempts to disguise himself funny? How did you feel when you read this?
What happens at 6 O’Clock?
Pp 76 – 77 Is this double page spread similar to something that you have already read? Can you match the speakers to those on pp 18 – 19 Do these snippets of conversation start to build a story? (see also pp 90 and 91)
Irony pp 88 – 89 reread the text on this spread. What is happening in the picture? How do the text and pictures work together in this instance?
P92 What does this page tell you about Ottoline and Mr Munroe’s relationship?
P97 Are there any clues to Nosey’s identity?
P 105 Are there any clues to the true identity of Mrs Jansen-Smith? Read on to see if you are correct.
P 106 The lap dog line up. Compare the expressions on the dog’s faces with the expressions on p 96. Why do you think Chris Riddell has drawn them differently here?
P114 – 115 Ottoline’s parents send her a postcard from Trondheim. Where has this cropped up in the story before now?
Making plans: Pp118 – 121 why do you think Mr Monroe is making notes? When Ottoline lets the Home-cooked Meal Company in she says, ‘There’s lots to get ready.’ What do you think she is referring to?
The plot is foiled: pp158-159 Look at Ottoline’s bedroom plan. How is it different to the plan that Mr Monroe gave the Yellow Cat? What is happening to the Yellow Cat on this page and why?
Ottoline tells the Yellow Cat that the she was able to foil the plot with the help of her friends. Can you work out how each of them contributed to the clever plan?
Pp 164-165 what words would you use to describe the bear in this picture? How does the portrayal of the bear contrast with the portrayal of the cat? If necessary, direct the children’s attention to facial expression and body language.
What is the relationship between Ottoline and the Yellow Cat on p165? Look at facial expression, the way they hold their hands. Note the position of the cat’s tail. There’s a saying ‘tail between the legs’ what does this mean? Is it an apt description of the cat in this picture? Return to the image of the cat on page 39. What differences can you see in the way Chris Riddell has drawn these two images?
Ottoline receives a final postcard from her parents before they return home from their expedition. What effect does Chris Riddell create by adding the PS and PPS? Why are these comments surprising?
Invite the children to return to the part of the story they most enjoyed and explain their reasons for choosing it.
Ottoline: return the list of ideas that you had about Ottoline at the beginning of the story. Is there anything that you would add now that you have read the book? Is there anything that you would take away? Do you think Ottoline was a good name for this character?
Animal characters: why do you think Chris Riddell chose cats, dogs and a bear for characters in this story? Can you think of other stories featuring these animals? What characteristics do they usually have?
Scale: big and small On page 18, Ottoline wears a jumper with the words big city. Look at the image on pp32-33. Why do you think Chris Riddell has drawn Ottoline and Mr Monroe so tine in this picture?
In chapter 4, how does Ottoline compare in height to the other characters? See the illustrations on pp 60 and 62. Who appears to be in charge in these pictures? Is that what you would expect?
Read Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking. How is Ottoline similar to Pippi? In what ways is she different?