Monday, 19 May 2008

Picture Book Monday: "The Mousehole Cat" by Antonia Barber and Nicola Bayley

Today’s feature is a delightful tale that would make a perfect bedtime story.
Inspired by a Cornish traditional festivity, Tom Bawcock’s Eve, it tells the story of Mowzer, a cat living in a small harbour called Mousehole, because of its narrow entrance. Mowzer lives in an old cottage overlooking the harbour, and has her own pet, old fisherman Tom.

Old Tom was very well behaved. He never spilled the cream when he was filling her saucer. He always stoked the range to a beautiful golden glow. He rocked the rocking-chair at just the right speed. He knew the exact spot behind her left ear, where Mowzer liked to be tickled.

They live happily until one year a terrible winter arrives and The Great Storm-Cat takes control of the sea. For days and days the fishing boats can’t go out fishing, leaving the town with no food. When even the last vegetables and salted pilchards are eaten, Mowzer and Tom know that they have to do something before everyone starve to death.
That’s when they decide to challenge the fierce Great Storm-Cat and try to save their town.

This is a moving and inspiring tale of courage and love. A pleasure to read aloud, so elegantly written and illustrated. It’s different from the picture books I’ve reviewed so far, because it sticks to the traditional way of presenting a picture book: one page for the text and one for the illustration. This suits perfectly the mood of the story, which is a reinterpretation of an old folk tale. Nicola Bailey did a wonderful job in decorating every page with strips of images from the sea, creating a book that’s both stylish and comforting. The illustrations are warm and soft, almost tactile. The text is utterly charming, telling the story from the cat’s point of view and presenting the sea storm as a big angry cat, who can be soothed with singing and purring.
It’s also a great introduction to Cornish food and culture. At some point the author tells us the mouth-watering weekly menu of Mowzer, with exotic (for me) but promising names. And at the end, we’re told that ever since the day Mowzer and Tom saved the village from the famine, the people of Mousehole hold a fish-feast on the night before Christmas Eve, to remember their deeds. And every year people from all over Cornwall come at Christmas to see the town all lit up with thousands lights shining their message of hope and a safe haven to all those who pass in peril of the sea.
Browsing the internet, I found out that it’s actually true. I never heard of Tom Bawcock's Eve nor of Mousehole, but now I really wish I can go visit the harbour one day, it looks like a beautiful place!

This picture book was named Illustated Children's Book of the Year, was nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal and shortlisted for the Smarties Book Prize and the Children's Book Award. It's been made into an animated film, which I can't find on the internet so I might buy one day on Dvd, and it has also being staged as a ballet on theatre.


That's it, today I'm off to Italy for three days, I'll be back at the end of the week. My blogaversary is coming up soon and I'm thinking of hosting another giveaway!


Ana S. said...

A folktale, Cornish culture, beautiful illustrations and a great story...what else can one ask for?

Have a great time in Italy!

Bunny B said...

Wheee...Italy! Have fun :)

Library Mice said...

I love this book. We stayed in Mousehole for a week a few years ago and it is a beautiful, magical place.

valentina said...

nymeth, that's true, it's got everything:)

bunny b, I did actually! it was lovely to be back even for few days only.

library mice, I would really like to go, it does look magical!