I’ve been a big fan of Debi Gliori since my children were small. Her books were favourites in our house, particularly the beautiful No Matter What (famous for making parents choke up over the final pages). The Tobermory Cat is another of those enchanting books that, although wholly created for and focused on the child, manage to have plenty of interest for the adults who will have to read them at bedtime - again and again...and again.
All the cats of the island of Mull are special. There are the Woolly Cats of Loch Ba, the Singing Cats of Staffa, the Sulky Cats of Salen (I love the snotty Sulky Cats), and the Seafaring Cats of Fishnish. Only in Tobermory are the cats ordinary; all they want to do is catch mice, eat fish, and watch the clouds go by. This is doing nothing for the tourist industry. So the people of Tobermory decide - prompted, as they should be in such a book, by a very small person - that they’re going to train their cats to be special, too.
Training cats? You can imagine how that works out.
But there’s one cat who wants to be special. He’s quite determined to be special, but he doesn’t know how. So he decides to ask the advice of everyone he can think of...
Of course, things don’t work out as he planned - but they do work out, and perfectly. This isn’t the only twist in the book, though: for that you have to reach the final, text-free double page, where children will meet some old familiar friends, in a perfect setting to say goodnight. It’s the sort of endearing spine-tingler that I’d have loved turning to at the end of a bedtime story. Far more importantly, so would my children.
The paintings are delicately beautiful, from broad landscapes to delicious small details. There are animals to spot, cats to identify, and so many funny pictorial asides, I’m still finding new ones. I love the typical Highland hardware store, and the mother’s expression on the beach is so familiar (I’ve worn it) it made me laugh out loud. The Tobermory Cat tells a child something loving and reassuring - and it’s funny, too.
Children will love the fact that the Tobermory Cat is real. Ginger stray cats with big personalities have roamed the town since at least the days of Saki - legendary local characters, like Greyfriars Bobby or the Loch Ness Monster. This latest incarnation will draw even more visitors to a beautiful island. So, congratulations to Debi Gliori, Birlinn Publishing and the people of Mull (to whom it is dedicated) on such a joyous book. I loved it.
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