Review by Larry Kryske
Megan Rix, Winston and the Marmalade Cat, Puffin, 2017, 192 pages, £5.99. ISBN 978–0141385693
Larry Kryske is a retired US Navy commander. He now runs Your Finest Hour Leadership Programs, which develop victorious leaders who have vision, courage, and determination.
This tale is mostly about nineyear-old Harry, who helps at the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA). He rescues a marmalade kitten, which he names Little Houdini. Meanwhile, John Colville, private secretary to Winston Churchill, is looking for a “marmie” kitten at the RSCPA for his master’s eighty-eighth birthday. Harry wants to keep Houdini but is persuaded to give him up for the Great Man. When, however, Harry shows up at Chartwell to give up the kitten, he learns that Churchill is at his London residence in Hyde Park Gate and that Colville has found another marmie for Churchill, which has been named Jock—Colville’s nickname. Eventually, Harry regularly brings Little Houdini around to play with Jock while Churchill smiles.
There are some absurd characters in this story like Old Ned, who is supposed to be Churchill’s childhood friend from a year of age but now lives near Chartwell. Churchill himself only makes brief appearances. There are flashback chapters about him and some of his former pets: Rufus the poodle, Nelson the cat, and Mr. Buttons—another poodle, which Churchill gave to his wife’s secretary Grace Hamblin. An absurd chapter has Harry and his classmates in school trying to identify the location where many of Churchill’s famous speeches were made—not a plausible activity for children.
This book is advertised for ages six to eight. My grandchildren are five, seven, and eight. None of them would have understood this story, especially the Churchill references. Neither age appropriate nor providing young readers with any real understanding of who Churchill was, this stray is best left at the pound.
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