Kid’s Book Review: Shadow Cat Summer

Kid’s Book Review: Shadow Cat Summer

About the Book and Author

This story is primarily about families and friendships and nature. There is an underlying mystery for the characters to solve that will keep a young reader turning the pages whilst the context of the twins’ visit to Scotland, whilst their mother is unwell, is also touched upon in a sensitive way that could serve as an introduction to a discussion about mental health and addiction.

This book contains charming black and white illustrations by Dawn Treacher at the beginning of each chapter that are a lovely addition, as well as the paw prints that our young reviewer comments on. Shadow Cat Summer is published by York-based indie publisher Stairwell Books.

Shadow Cat Summer cover
Rebecca Smith author

Rebecca Smith has been fascinated by big cats wild in the UK since she first heard tales of the Surrey puma when she was little. Shadow Cat Summer was inspired by a stay at Moniack Mohr in the Scottish Highlands and her own and her children’s love of the natural world. She has two (small) cats, some chickens, and is a Dog Granny to a black cocker spaniel called Ziggy. Rebecca has Scottish, Indian and English heritage. She is a Principal Teaching Fellow in English and Creative Writing at the University of Southampton.

Dawn Treacher is  children’s book author and illustrator based near York in North Yorkshire. Despite doing an HNC in Illustration in Bournemouth nearly 20 years ago she didn’t do anything more with illustration for many years. However, she did spend most of my spare time painting, with a particular passion for landscapes in acrylics and  3 years ago she studied children’s book illustration with the London Art College.

Book Review

The vivid and poetic writing makes it easy to visualise the events and sets the scene beautifully

I found Shadow Cat Summer easy to read as the chapters were very short (some only one page long!)

I liked the way the publishers printed a few passages in bold with paw prints around the edges to show what the cat was thinking (you can see an example of a page below).

The book follows the twins Alex and Katrina with their new friend Sandy – the main protagonists – on their summer holidays in the Scottish Highlands, as they struggle to get proof that something is living near their residence and attacking animals. As well as the small illustrations at the start of every chapter, the vivid and poetic writing makes it easy to visualise the events and sets the scene beautifully.

There is a touching, subtle secondary storyline talking about the serious matter of alcoholism and the effects it has on the family. The mum is unable to look after her children for a while and they go to stay with their aunt whilst she is in hospital. Each twin responds differently to this situation.

I enjoyed reading this story because I would always want to pick it up again as the events seemed to get worse throughout the book. I hadn’t read a story with this subject matter before and I found it sad for anyone in this situation.

I think this book is perfect for age 11 and over as the main protagonists are just about to start secondary school. It’s full of adventure in a beautiful location and I feel that these events could happen in real life.

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Reviewer Profile

Iona reviewer
  • Name: Iona
  • Age: 11 years
  • Likes: reading, playing football and nature
  • Dislikes: aubergines and getting up too early
  • Favourite Book: the Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • Favourite Film: High School Musical 1-2-3
  • Favourite Song: Rewrite the Stars from The Greatest Showman