Book Reviews

Review: The Book Cat by Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy

This adorable tale of a wartime publishing cat – based on real life! – is a sweet and heartwarming story that’s perfect for cat lovers.

Book: The Book Cat by Polly Faber, illustrated by Clara Vulliamy

Publication date: 26th August 2021

Ownership: Review copy sent free of charge by Faber Childrens. All opinions my own.

Content warnings: Age-appropriate but possibly upsetting discussion of World War II including bombings; animal death/death of parent and sibling.

Morgan is a young orphan who lives off scavenging – until he finds a cosy home at a famous London publishing house. Over time he learns a trade – and soon becomes the very best book cat in the business.

And then the Blitz begins.

Morgan finds himself training up twenty odd kittens to be book cats, and then there is the small matter of secretly evacuating them out of London. Happily, Morgan has a plan.

This book is so gorgeous, both in presentation and content. It’s a beautiful matte hardback with a red foil title, and two-colour illustrations throughout, and it’s printed on lovely creamy paper, so it just feels like a real treat to hold. And it’s just as much of a treat to actually read! The book opens with a letter from the author, which tells you a bit about the real life story this is inspired by (and introduces the author’s own cats, Alan and Babs!), and the afterword, which is written by the cats themselves – it’s a lovely, well-thought-out reading experience from start to finish, and really feels like something special in addition to the main story.

But of course, that’s not to say that the main story isn’t also lovely! It’s an utterly heartwarming tale of a scrawny street cat, Morgan, who finds a happy home at the offices of Faber & Faber, and who then uses his newfound comfort to pass on that happiness to more kittens, matching each of them up with an author to find a new, safer home. It’s such a wonderful depiction of kindness and selflessness, and I fell in love with Morgan immediately. The kittens are so delightful, too, and I absolutely loved the concept of Book Cats, who can help authors in dozens of ways, from encouraging them to stretch their legs (via the food cupboards) to swiping bad drafts off the table – it’s just hilarious, and so true to life! Every author should have a Book Cat, for sure.

As you might expect from a book set in wartime, there is a measure of sadness to balance out all this joy. The opening of the book will really pull on your heartstrings – despite how the blurb puts it, Morgan doesn’t start off as an orphan, but loses his mother and his sister to a bombing. His grief informs his character throughout the book, and he never forgets his family, and although it’s never mawkish or age-inappropriate, the most sensitive readers may find it a little bit hard going. That being said, I thought the bittersweetness really made this book feel full and beautiful. It might make you well up a bit, but it will also make you smile.

The Book Cat is heavily illustrated, with pretty much every page featuring a cat or several, so it’s an absolute delight for cat lovers! The kittens tumble and scramble across the pages in such fabulously funny ways: kittens hiding in teapots or riding on hats abound. I was actually drawn to this book because I adore Clara Vulliamy’s illustration style, as you may know from my reviews of her hilarious Marshmallow Pie series – she has such a knack for capturing feline expressions and body language perfectly, and any cat owner will recognise most of the faces she draws from their own pet! This is true perhaps most of all for me, because look:

Yes, you might recognise this handsome fluffy chap – he looks awfully like my Tomte cat! Tomte and Clara are great friends on Twitter and I’m so completely overwhelmed by the honour of his likeness being in this book.

I love everything about this book – but then, look at my blog name: how could this be anything less than perfect for me? I recommend this to any fellow cat-and-book lovers, for sure. Obviously, five out of five cats!

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