The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky
Published by: Allen & Unwin
Publication Date: April 2017
Genres: Middle Grade, Historical
Date Read: March 27th, 2017
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A boy stood in the playground under the big fig tree. ‘He can’t speak English,’ the children whispered.
Sydney, 1942. The war is coming to Australia – not only with the threat of bombardment, but also the arrival of refugees from Europe. Dreamy Columba’s world is growing larger. She is drawn to Ellery, the little boy from far away, and, together with her highly practical best friend Hilda, the three children embark on an adventure through the harbour-side streets – a journey of discovery and terror, in pursuit of the mysterious blue cat.
I received a copy of The Blue Cat from the Allen & Unwin for review Considerations. This in no way influences my opinion of this book.
The Blue Cat is told from the point of view of Columba, a young girl whose world is slowly being entrenched upon by the war. The spectre of lost mothers and lost homes looms large in the figure of Ellery, a German boy who has come to attend Columba’s school.
I loved the atmosphere in this book. If you want to step back into a dreamlike state of what life for a child in Sydney might have been like in 1942 during the war, this book is perfect. Beautifully written and I was constantly poised for some significant action to take place. Rather, the story unfolds gently through Columba’s interactions with her brash, larger-than-life friend Hilda and the silent Ellery.
However this book was a bit disappointing. Despite the title, this book lacked actual Cats. It’s a story of a girl who sees her neighbour’s cat and then ends up searching for it because it’s missing at the end. He only makes brief appearances and doesn’t seem, as the Synopsis suggests, to be keeping any secrets at all. Rather, he seems to be acting like an ordinary cat.
Also I have no idea what the ending was about. It had no conclusion. I spent the whole book waiting for something to happen. Columba, as a narrator, is more of a bystander than an agent in her own life and while there are plenty of us who live through certain historical events without having them touch us in a significant way, I’m not sure that this perspective is the most effective upon which to base a protagonist.
One thing I did love about the book was the inclusion of primary source materials. Instead of illustrations, every few pages a newspaper article, photograph or advertisement from the time pops up and I found these really interesting.
Overall, I did enjoy parts of this. The Blue Cat is a beautiful story, but I just wish Dubosarsky spent more time developing the settings.