The Book Cat is the latest collaboration from the duo who brought us the Mango and Bambang series and although rather different in content it still contains that same feeling of kindness and friendship. Set in wartime London in the middle of the Blitz this book is inspired by a real life cat. And not just any cat, a literary cat. Morgan, the star of this story, made his home in the Faber and Faber offices and was also the inspiration for one of the poems in T S Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.
Morgan’s story is told in engaging style by Polly Faber accompanied by charming illustrations by Clara Vulliamy that capture the personalities of Morgan and his feline chums. Morgan is a young cat all alone on the city streets learning to fend for himself until by chance he finds himself a new home in the Faber publishing house offices. Gradually Morgan learns about the literary world and soon becomes the best literary cat around. As the bombing of the city intensifies Morgan takes on the daunting task of finding safe homes away from London for a large number of the neighbourhood kittens. The indefatigable Morgan has a cunning plan.
Polly Faber is the granddaughter of Geoffrey Faber and first learnt of the existence of Morgan through letters she received from her grandfather who apparently described him as “a very large, black, heavy and affectionate CAT.” Morgan’s story is introduced by the author with mentions of her own two literary cats, Alan and Babs. These two also provide the postscript which is a neat touch. It is probably time to confess that I am more of a dog person myself but am easily swayed by cats with such wonderful names. I was also converted by Morgan himself who is quite a character. From a little scrap of a kitten to a majestic father figure to the local cats the reader accompanies Morgan on his journey through life. It is a satisfying and enjoyable experience.
This is a beautiful package of a book cleverly designed to appeal to young readers. The solid larger style hardback with its beautiful cover is both eye catching and evocative of the story within. Clara Vulliamy’s delightful illustrations encourage the reader to linger and look more closely and convey both the joyful exuberance of the young cats and life in the streets and offices of wartime London. The limited palette of red, black and white works well and every page contains appealing vignettes, full page pictures or sometimes little paw prints wandering across the edges.
This is pitched perfectly for its intended audience and would be a wonderful book for a newly independent reader. The chapters, with appropriate headings such as Cat Burglar, Planner Cat and Victory Cat, are of a manageable length and are presented with large areas of white space and illustrations ensuring that it does not look overwhelming. It would work brilliantly read aloud too. This is a delight of a story to be enjoyed by many and would convert even the most reluctant to both cats and books!
I should like to thank Faber for providing my free review copy. The Book Cat is published on 26th August and is available to purchase either online or at your nearest independent bookshop which can be found on this map. If young readers are looking for other stories featuring resourceful cats they may like to try Toto the Ninja Cat and the Superstar Catastrophe by Dermot O’Leary illustrated by Nick East.