Twitter has been full of posts today to celebrate National Cat Day. I’m a sucker for sweet pics of felines doing silly or adorable things, so this ‘celebration’ is right up my street. I was just about to pen a post (I shouldn’t say ‘pen’ should I when I am working on a laptop?) when the Guardian beat me to it with ‘Pip Jones’s Top 10 cats in children’s books’.
Nevertheless, it got me thinking about lovely cats I have met while reading children’s books. There are many on Pip Jones’s list that I agree with: Mog the Forgetful Cat, Six Dinner Sid, The Cat in the Hat, Gobbolino… to name a few. But I can think of a few more that deserve a big mention too, as they played an important part in bedtime stories either when I was young or when we read picture books to Holly ever night. So here are my additions to the list, in no particular order of popularity:
1. Captain’s Purr, by Madeleine Floyd
We love this love story about Captain, the cat who likes to eat, sleep, wash himself and wander out at nighttime to woo his lady friend in a little row boat. It’s magical, romantic and very sweet indeed. Floyd’s watercolour paintings are gorgeous and complement Captain’s gentle gallantry.
2. Wilbur the cat, in the Winnie the Witch series, by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Long-suffering but fiercely loyal Wilbur must rank as a favourite in children’s books. He’s had all sorts of things done to him – accidentally of course – while Winnie tries her hardest to cast effective spells, but he stays with his human through thick and thin (and worse). Paul’s illustrations bring this wonderful character to life and give him much more of a status than mere sidekick.
3. Huckle, and all of Richard Scarry’s cats
Richard Scarry was – and still is – one of my favourite authors and illustrators and I particularly adored Huckle and the other cats in his work. Scarry gave his characters such… character – a kind of frantic happiness in their features which makes me giggle just to look at them. I am glad to have the series at school now, where they are frequently borrowed.
4. The Owl and the Pussycat, by Edward Lear – illustrated (here) by Lynton Lamb
This is one of my favourite poems, and I love how the marriage between two such disparate animals doesn’t seem strange to me (maybe I am strange). And the cat uses a great verb – tarried – to rhyme with married, which my cats would never say. Kudos to the cat, for marrying a bird (and not slaughtering it like my cat would do) and using fab vocab.
5. Lord Gort, from Blitzcat, by Robert Westall
Robert Westall was a massive cat lover and one of his best books, in my opinion, has a feline as the central character. Lord Gort, a female black cat bizarrely named after a British soldier and commandant, lives a happy life until her male owner is sent to fight in the Second World War. Bereft, she uses ‘psi-tracking’ – a supposedly paranormal ability – to try to track him down, and meets a variety of people along her way, all of whom she somehow helps. Westall doesn’t resort to anthropomorphism in this story but, through Lord Gort’s tenacity, resourcefulness and compassion, we get a good picture of her character and become to know her, care for her and root for her. It’s a harrowing and honest portrayal of the deprivations and horrors of life in WWII Britain but it is rewarding and very moving.
6. William the detective cat in William Heads to Hollywood and William & The Missing Masterpiece, by Helen Hancocks
I fell in love immediately with suave and sophisticated William in Helen Hancocks’s first book featuring the feline detective (Missing Masterpiece) and was delighted when the next book came out this summer (Hollywood). He’s how I imagine some cats to be – clever, debonair and on the prowl for clues. Even if William sometimes misses an important lead, his stylish manner makes him instantly forgivable.
There are more amazing kitties out there. Michael Morpurgo has written some lovely books with cats as central characters, including Adolphus Tips, Kaspar Prince of Cats and Montezuma, all of which are worth a look. It’s great to celebrate cats instead of seeing them as evildoers, especially with Hallowe’en coming up! Although my one of my two kitties – Lily – has a murderous streak and an occasional evil eye.
I’ll end with a sketch Holly drew today for the Royal Academy’s Twitter competition – to sketch a cat in pen. She enjoyed this and I can verify that her attempt was far better, and more skilled, than my own!