Polly Faber on The Book Cat and illustrated chapter books for kids
The book we’ve sent our Parakeet subscribers this month is a charming and beautifully illustrated story perfect for young bookworms and animal-lovers alike. It also makes a moving and carefully written introduction to the Blitz and the wider impact of war for readers aged 5+. We love the historical setting and instantly fell in love with Morgan the Book Cat. Here author Polly Faber tells us all about what inspired the book and which illustrated chapter books for kids she recommends you read next.
What was the inspiration behind The Book Cat?
The inspiration behind The Book Cat were my very own Book Cats, Alan and Babs. They and their predecessor Jones have loyally helped me write many books. But as I wrote about tapirs and ponies and dogs, I can’t deny that they got increasingly exasperated with me. There had to be a lot of sitting on the computer keyboard and deleting my words before I finally got the message and picked up Morgan’s story. They would say I am a very slow human sometimes – both at writing the right books and at getting their breakfast.
What research did you do when you were writing the book?
Many things in The Book Cat are definitely true and EVERYTHING in The Book Cat might be true. Morgan was a real cat who turned up at Faber and Faber some time in 1943. My grandfather described him as a ‘very affectionate large and black cat’ who helped keep fire watch on the roof during bombing raids. But the war fair and banana auction at Russell Square and the V1 rocket attack that damaged the Faber buildings were also real events. I found out about them and more about the Second World War from the Imperial War Museum and through reading papers from the Faber archive.
Do you have a favourite character in the book and if so who is it?
My favourite character in the book has got to be Morgan. He goes through times of great trouble and sadness, but he never stops being kind and resourceful. And without his training foundation passed on from generation to generation of book cat I’m not sure I would ever have been able to write anything worthwhile myself.
Do you have a favourite place to write?
I write in a small and very untidy study on a computer with Alan and Babs popping in and out to supervise me as necessary. If I get stuck, I like to go out for a walk and that often helps me write the next part in my head ready for when I come back home again.
Why did you choose to write books for children?
I write for children because children’s books remain my favourite books to read. I like funny books and happy ending books and books that make you feel real feelings and books with illustrations on every page: Not nearly enough grown-up books tick all those boxes.
What was your favourite book as a child?
I loved Noel Streatfeild’s books – Ballet Shoes was probably my favourite – as well as authors like Lorna Hill and the Pullein-Thompson sisters who wrote pony stories. Some of my best reading memories are of sneaking into my brother’s bedroom to read Asterix books on his bed on rainy Sundays.
Which illustrated chapter books for younger readers would you recommend our subscribers read next?
Can I recommend Clara Vulliamy’s series about Marshmallow Pie? He is a very very funny cat. I would like to see a series where he and Morgan get together and have adventures although I expect there would be quite a lot of fighting too.
If you were a book cat, which author or illustrator would you like to go and live with?
I think being one of the very earliest Book Cats in Ancient Egyptian times is a hard job to beat. Not only did they get immortalised in stone hieroglyphics that people are still admiring thousands of years later but they also got treated as living gods deserving of all the very finest treats and riches. Alan and Babs may well be suggesting I do further research on this topic and write more about Ancient Egypt soon…
Copies of our The Book Cat pack, including a copy of the book and loads of fun activities to go with it, are now available for individual purchase. Grab a copy while stocks last!
This post includes affiliate links to our bookshop.org page, meaning we receive a small percentage of the sale should you purchase through them. Additionally, a percentage from all sales on the platform goes directly to local UK bookshops which is an initiative we're delighted to support!