Ross Welford, author of The 1,000-Year-Old Boy, Rounds Up Famous Purr-fect Paws in Print
There is something mystical and mysterious about cats, which is perhaps why I chose a cat to be Alfie Monk’s immortal sidekick in The 1,000-Year-Old Boy.
Alfie’s cat, Biffa, is based – in name as well as in character – on a cat that once belonged to my brother. Sadly, a close encounter with a cement mixer travelling at 30 mph ensured that the real Biffa was not immortal.
These cats, however, will live on - in the pages of books, anyhow:
A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen
Bob is probably the most successful cat-in-a-book ever. The heartwarming real-life tale of a ginger tom turning around the life of a homeless man has – seven books and a movie later - turned busker James Bowen into a millionaire.
Varjak Paw by S F Said.
SF Said’s debut novel for children, told from the point of view of a cat with feline martial arts skills, scooped loads of awards and has been adapted for the stage as a play and an opera, and is under option as a movie. Published in 2003, it was followed by another, The Outlaw Varjak Paw two years later. Special mention to the illustrator Dave McKean, for fabulous, rather haunting pictures.
Mog by Judith Kerr
The redoubtable Ms Kerr (94, and no sign of retirement) has written and illustrated eighteen books about Mog, the family cat, since 1970. She killed Mog off in 2002, only to revive him in 2015 for a Christmas tie-in with Sainsbury’s. And let’s not forget The Tiger Who Came To Tea, which is also about a cat (only a really big, greedy one).
Findus and Pettson by Sven Nordqvist
Nothing to do with convenience foods, this Findus is a cat belonging to the scruffy, kindly old Pettson. These books were a favourite in our half-Swedish household. To me, their appeal lay less in the stories and more in the glorious, detailed, full-page illustrations.
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by TS Eliot
Mungojerrie, Rumpleteazer, Mistoffelees, Jennyanydots, Old Deuteronomy…he was onto something was old Tom Eliot. The verses themselves are perfect, humorous, lessons in scanning and rhyming. If only someone would put them to music, they might have a hit on their hands.
The Tale Of Tom Kitten by Beatrix Potter.
Ugh. I loathed these books when I was a child, and time has not softened my dislike. Yet… Beatrix Potter books continue to sell. I have no idea why. I think they are all bought by well-meaning grandparents. I have yet to meet a child who actually likes them.
Beware The Cat by William Baldwin
This book is often called the first published novel in English. It appeared in 1561, and featured several animals, real and mythological. This being the reign of Elizabeth I, the “cats” supposedly symbolise “Catholics”. Despite being a horror story, it boasted on its cover that it was “Very pleasant and merry to read.” No original copy survives.
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