Hodder Children’s Books. First published 1990.
An indictment about urban living and non-communication in society doesn’t sound like a theme which would have three to five-year-olds demanding repeat readings of “Six Dinner Sid.”
Yet this priceless book, by author/illustrator Inga Moore, does exactly that because the message is so subtle, the story so charming and the illustrations so extraordinarily detailed and expressive.
I must have read this book hundreds of times since buying it for my first son, approximately 17 years after it was first published.
Although some of the clothes look a tad dated today (1980s fashion), the book still delights because the illustrations of Sid the cat, around whom the story centres, are magnificent.
Moore captures the mannerisms and posture of Sid so well, the reader instinctively knows this artist either has, or has had, a cat of her own.
It tells of a streetwise and calculating black cat, Sid, who leads a contended life, munching his way through six dinners a day, from six different neighbours in Aristotle Street. Each neighbour thinks Sid is their cat.
Because none of the neighbours speak to each other, they don’t know that Sid is Bob in one house, Satan in another, Scaramouche, Sally, Sooty and Schwartz in others.
But, in true picture book fashion, Sid is going to come a cropper when he develops a cough and is taken to the vets six times by his six different ‘owners.’
“Now, one black cat does look much like another, but nobody, not even a busy vet, could see the same cat six times without becoming suspicious. Sure enough, when he checked in his appointments book, the vet found six cats with a cough – all living in Aristotle Street! So he rang the owners at once…”
Sid is rumbled when the neighbours discover he’s been using them to his feline advantage and they conspire to give him just one meal a day.
But, since Sid is a six-dinner-a-day cat, he leaves Aristotle Street and takes up residence in neighbouring Pythagoras Place.
And it is here that the message of the story about the need to communicate with each other is revealed.
“Unlike Aristotle Street, the people who lived in Pythagoras Place talked to their neighbours. So, right from the start, everyone knew about Sid’s six dinners.
(Final page turn)
“And because everyone knew, nobody minded.”
Long may this book continue to be published!