Review Blog

Apr 03 2020

The astronaut's cat by Tohby Riddle

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2020. ISBN: 9781760524944. 32pp.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. The image of a cat peering out of the space lab's porthole is mesmerising: at once preposterous and curiously entrancing, it will impel younger readers to wonder about the story inside.
This cat is an inside cat: she spends her time sleeping and eating and playing with her musical ball which looks like Earth. She likes to look out of the window at the astronaut at work, or just look at the rocks. She knows that it will be too hot for her outside during the day and freezing at night and there is air inside the space lab and none outside, and there is some sound inside but not outside, but still she wonders what it would be like. She dreams of being out there, bouncing in the dust, leaping and twirling, higher than ever before. She dreams she sees her ball in the ink black sky and dreams she is on it with its millions of shapes and forms, colours and things to wonder at.
The curious cat reveals the world as she can see it from space: beautiful, colourful, scenic and pristine. But readers will know that it needs care to remain this way. A testament to the fragility of the Earth, Riddle's work is always quirky and mischievous. We can rely on him to produce a story that has layers of meaning and intent, and is deeply satisfying.
His quirky premise that a cat can live in a space lab will quicken readers' imaginations, provoke them to dream themselves of what it would be like for a cat on the moon and initiate thoughts about what it would be like for them to be on the moon.  And within Riddle's sparse poetic lines they will pick up much information about the moon and its treasures.
With his illustrations reflecting an interest with mixed media and collage, readers again will be intrigued, looking for examples of paper cut out, collage, antique engravings and watercolour illustrations of flora and fauna. His mix of techniques adds yet another level of interest to a book which is already endlessly fascinating. Teacher tips and notes on making the book are available. Themes: Cats, Astronauts, Moon, Space travel, Companionship.
Fran Knight

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