Monday, 13 February 2017

Classic Children's Books: The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber

Book Review

The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber and Nicola Bayley

"At the far end of England, a land of rocks and moorland stretches itself out into a blue-green sea."

The Mousehole Cat is written by Antonia Barber and illustrated by Nicola Bayley. It is published by Walker Books.

I haven't written a review of a children's book for a while so I thought I'd re-read one of my favourite children's books, The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber.

The dramatic and moving Cornish tale of Mowzer, the cat, and Tom, the old fisherman, who brave the fury of the Great Storm Cat to try and save their village.

The Mousehole Cat stirs up so many memories from my childhood; my Grandparents lived in Cornwall, not far from Mousehole (yes, it's a real place and the book is based on a real event), and I spent most of my summers there. This book really reminds me of my holidays with them.

The story of Mowzer and her pet human Tom facing the Great Storm Cat to save the village of Mousehole (pronounced Mowzel) is very sweet and heart-warming, but not in a slushy way.

I love that the language is very simple and matter of fact, yet still somehow magical. I get a warm feeling in my stomach when I read this book, and I'm only a little bit embarrassed to admit it!

The Mousehole Cat also deals with some quite deep subjects for a children's book. But it does it in a simple manner and doesn't shy away from it.

"'Someone must go fishing come what may, and I think it must be me. It cannot be the young men, for they have wives and children and mothers to weep for them if they do not return. But my wife and parents are dead long since and my children are grown and gone.'
Mowzer purred to tell him that she understood, for it was the same with her."

My favourite thing about this book is the personification of the sea as a cat, combined with the illustrations by Nicola Bayley it's so beautiful and clever.

The Mousehole Cat, illustration by Nicola Bayley

Of course, being a children's book the illustrations are important, but few books have struck me as blending prose and illustrations so perfectly as The Mousehole Cat.

Are there any issues with the book?

A cat singing is a bit of a strange concept, but just go with it.

Also, there's a touch of the sexism that seems flooded through a lot of children's books; you'll notice that the women go home while the men stay out to wait.

However, it is based on the past and it is only a small touch, not like a lot of older children's books where the mother is always at the sink and the man always in a suit going to or returning from work.
Anyway, little rant there, that's really the smallest 'issue' I could pick up.

And Mowzer is female, so girl cat power and all that.

If you haven't read The Mousehole Cat I would highly recommend it, it's ideal for children but also a lovely read for adults.

Also, There's an animated short film of The Mousehole Cat that I watched loads when I was younger, and I just found it on Youtube! The music at the beginning is so nostalgic.

My Rating: 4.5/5 (rounded up to 5 for Goodreads)

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