As a lover of cats and history, I was looking forward to reading Megan Rix’s Winston and the Marmalade Cat. My own marmalade cat, Horace, was interested too. He told me that he was especially keen to see how one of his brethren was portrayed in print. At least, I think that’s what he was saying.
Winston and the Marmalade Cat tells the tale of Harry, a boy who is 9 in the early 1960s and whose father was blinded in the Second World War. Harry loves animals and helps out at the local RSPCA shelter. When he rescues a tiny marmalade kitten he’s desperate to keep it but there are problems – his father is worried that he’ll accidentally hurt the fragile creature and even more compellingly, Winston Churchill has come to live in retirement at Chartwell, his nearby country home. Churchill loves marmalade cats and it’s nearly his birthday. Harry’s beloved kitten, a skilled escapologist he names Little Houdini, seems like the perfect choice for a gift for the much-loved statesman.
I won’t tell you any more of the story because I’d really recommend that you read it for yourself. It’s charmingly written and I loved the gentle humour. I especially enjoyed the way that Rix uses Little Houdini’s point of view to progress the story, and the chapters that go back to earlier episodes in Churchill’s life to tell the reader about some of the many animals who shared their lives with him. Who knew that Churchill was such an animal lover? I certainly didn’t.
Skilfully blended with the story are snippets of information about cat care and about the life and achievements of the man voted the Greatest Briton Ever. If you’re trying to introduce a history hater or an animal-nut to the topic of Churchill and World War Two, this could be a clever way of doing it.
The strands of Rix’s story are drawn together to form a conclusion that will satisfy everyone. And after that, there’s a fun quiz and a recipe for one of Harry’s favourite treats.
Overall, Horace was charmed. And so was I. This book’s humour and the deceptive simplicity of the writing have much in common with Dick King-Smith and Michael Morpurgo. Oh, and Horace says that the depiction of Little Houdini, the Marmalade Cat, was spot-on.
At least, I think that’s what he said.