Happy Harry’s Cafe, Words by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Richard Holland, published by Candlewick Press

It’s a great moment when your toddler starts saying the lines to books she loves before you’ve even started to read it. This is what happens when we begin the excellent Happy Harry’s Cafe (our toddler announces: “The Soup is Good, Daddy!”), a brilliant combination of Michael Rosen’s surrealist narrative and Richard Holland’s fine, distinctive illustrations.

It’s the tale of a lunchtime rush for ‘great soup’ in a 1950s-esque diner, where all the customer’s can’t wait to get their spoons into Happy Harry’s renowned tomato-based creation. Only there’s a problem with one of the regulars – Matt the Cat is missing his spoon!

[Maybe I’ve read it too frequently in the last few weeks, but to me the book has something of the atmosphere of an episode of the Twilight Zone, particularly given that Matt the Cat is reading a copy of the Daily Miaow, a cat newspaper featuring mug-shots of two feline felons, alongside a headline “Wanted!”]

Fortunately, a potential crisis is quickly resolved, laughter fills the cafe and, before long, Matt joins Harry in a musical tribute to their favourite dish.