A cat called Trim by Corinne Fenton

cover image

Ill. by Craig Smith. Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN: 9781760631840.
(Age: 4 - Adult) Highly recommended. Themes: Matthew Flinders, Exploration, Life at sea, Sailing, Companion animals, Australian history. Matthew Flinders' cat, Trim takes centre stage in this appealing book of his life alongside one of the world's outstanding explorers. A kitten born aboard the HMS Reliance in 1799, he was taken in by Flinders noticing his courage and lack of timidity. He prowled the ship, killing mice, joining Flinders at the Captain's table, then going below to join the crew for any tidbits. Saved by Flinders when he fell overboard, Trim was with Flinders aboard HMS Investigator as he sailed around parts of Australia, coming to grief on the Great Barrier Reef.
Sailing across the Indian Ocean in 1804 Flinders had to call in for repairs and supplies at Isle de France only to be seized as a spy and imprisoned. Trim would venture out at night but one night he failed to return, and when Flinders was released in 1810, he sailed home alone.
Statues of Captain Flinders and his cat have been erected in Port Lincoln and Lincolnshire, while a small statue of Trim has been erected behind that of Flinders outside the Mitchell Library in Sydney, which houses many of his papers.
Trim: being the true story of a brave, seafaring cat by Matthew Flinders was published in 1977 after Flinders wrote a biographical sketch of his cat in 1809 while he was imprisoned in Isle de France (Mauritius).
This wonderful book relates the story of Trim and his life with Flinders, giving readers a great deal of information about Flinders' explorative work and why he is so important to Australia. It details the ships he sailed after Trim's arrival, and Craig Smith includes drawings of these in his detailed and engrossing illustrations as well as enticing endpapers with maps of Flinders' voyages. Smith breathes life into the crew's years on board ship detailing the perils of life at sea for all to wonder at. From falling overboard, to sewing up the sails, being wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef and having to wait for your captain to return, sometimes months later, or putting up with the vermin that inhabited the ship, all is shown in this glorious book.
Fenton tells the story of the night in 1804 when Trim did not return from one of his night's escapades and muses that perhaps he was off on another adventure, although the story goes that someone ate him!
This wonderful book will encourage younger children to find out more about Captain Flinders and his mercurial cat, delving into the exploration that Flinders undertook, naming Australia, and mapping the continent, so realising why there are so many statures of him around the world, with and without Trim.
Fran Knight