Friday, 9 November 2012
Ailurophobes, look away now!
The ginger curls up "ammonite tight" on her patchwork cushion and dreams of her bigger cousins, from the tiger, "bright flame cat of the forest" to the Scottish wildcat "ancient, almost a memory." The artwork is stunning and the text lyrical and there is a spread at the end with all the natural history details of the elegant felines. A must for every cat-lover, but you'll have to get your own; I'm not parting with mine.
Ginger cats have been getting almost as much coverage in the media and on social networks as a certain transatlantic event. Two candidates have been vying for the title of (The) Tobermory Cat. One is a photographic book by Angus Stewart and the other a picture book by Debi Gliori.
I had read so much online about Stewart's claims of plagiarism and Gliori's being cyber-bullied by people who thought that Stewart had invented this feline that I bought both books. (I like to know what I'm writing about).
And really you know they just aren't the same kind of book at all. I loved looking at all the photographs of the (apparently) composite cat in Angus Stewart's book. He (they) is clearly a real character. It makes a lovely album.
But Debi Gliori's is telling a story, a made-up story, for younger children about finding a way to be special. It's not an Obama/Romney kind of choice at all. I'll keep them both.
But that's not the end of my cat stories! I have been catching up with a bit of a backlog and I hadn't come across Puss Jekyll and cat Hyde before. The text is a poem by Joyce Dunbar and the illustrations are by Jill Barton, whose work I didn't know.
It's a simply premise, recognisable to every owner, that domestic cat has two distinct personalities: the cuddly, purry, wanting its tummy tickled delightful companion and the fierce and solitary hunter. Eleanor Farjeon caught it in her poem Cat: "Sleeky flatterer/ Spitfire chatterer." And Dunbar does it here too.
My only worry would be that the Jekyll and Hyde allusion will be lost on children.
I must end with another Jackie Morris book, one so beautiful that it seems impossible paper and card could contain so much magic.
I've done one myself - but this one does feel like entering a secret room full of unimaginable precious objects.
Forty simple and familiar rhymes are transformed by Morris's alchemy into full blown stories through her art. The fine lady who rode to Banbury Cross for example has not just rings on her fingers but a hawk on her wrist (I suspect the correct Merlin); not just bells on her toes but a train of minstrels including one playing two recorders at once like the musician in Simone Martini's Knighting of St Martin fresco in Assisi.
The girl in Lavender's Blur rides a polar bear! And we ride to Babylon with a winged lion and a winged horse. Giant cats and giant sheep - nothing is what you expect. Weasels swarm and kiss and stir the rice and treacle - oh I can't go on; it is just too gorgeous for words. Give the woman a prize and give the book to every child you know. I WISH I'd had it when I was a little girl.