Sunday, March 04, 2007

A Kitten Called Moonlight

A Kitten called Moonlight
by Martin Waddell
Illustrated by Christian Birmingham

Ages : 3-6

Many years ago, my father told me a story....a story about himself and a little kitten. It dates back to some 30 odd years ago, when my father was still a bachelor and living with his mother and sisters. It had been a very stormy night. And all night, above the noise of the rain and thunder, he heard some strange sounds...of pitiful wailing much like the sound of a baby crying. It kept him up, and he couldn't wait to go and investigate.

So early the next morning, after the storms had abated, he walked out of the house and followed the strange cries, which seemed to be coming from the well. What he saw inside really pulled at his heart.

A tiny little kitten had accidentally fallen inside. And cats, as we know, hate the water. This little one was clutching tightly with its claws, to the insides of the well wall, just above the water line. It was holding on for dear life, meaowing pitifully all the while.

My father, in all the spiritedness of youth and compassion, jumped into the well, headlong, and grabbed the little kitten. It held onto his neck tightly, while he climbed back up slowly, and took it inside the house.

There, he lit some coals, put a little basket on top of that, and lay the little kitten inside to warm it up. Then he got a bowl of warm milk, and it lapped it up greedily. And the rest is truly history. A bond was forged and the cat had found its master. He named his cat Raja.

Everyday after he came home from school (he was a teacher), the kitten would come bounding up to him, from wheverever it was playing. And every night, after all the family members had fallen asleep, Raja would come quietly in, find my father among all the sleeping figures, crawl under his shirt, and sleep there on his chest, cuddled against the warmth.

And so on and on, my father would tell me about his times with Raja. It was exactly the sort of heroic tale that my child's mind feasted on and I was eager for more and more. One fine day, our Raja gave birth to a litter of kittens, and my father realised that he had chosen the wrong name for it all along. :) Now cats, as we know, are ferociously protective of their little ones. And in the entire house, my father was the only one allowed to come near the litter and touch them.

A lot of the details after this are blurry in his memory, but he did tell me about the day Raja and her little ones were separated from him. His family was never particularly fond of Raja, and when one of his sisters came to visit with her infant child, they all put pressure on him to get rid of Raja. My father wouldn't comply. So one day, when he was away at school, his sister took Raja and the kittens to some place a little far away and left them there. And they never found their way back home.

My father, needless to say, was heartbroken. For many days thereafter, he would cycle around on the streets looking desperately for his friend. Then one day, he lost all hope of seeing Raja again. And this became a story he relived to share with me and my siblings many years later.

This close-to-the-heart tale is what flashed through my mind when I picked up 'A kitten called moonlight' from the library, almost by mistake. I looked at the cover and thought it looked interesting. Even the author's name did not catch my attention at the time.

Now you can guess at what the story in the book is like, based on the story from life that I just narrated. So I won't give out too much of details. What I will say, is this. This book is a tender tale within a tale of little Charlotte who wants to hear from her mother, the story of how one night, she found a little kitten in the moonlight outside their home and what followed afterwards. It is written by the award winning author (Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 2004) Martin Waddell. One of his other books, 'Owl Babies' has already been reviewed here by Meera.

Martin Waddell, says in his bio, that he likes to write books about a big loneliness, fear of the dark, compassion etc in a very small person. And as parents, we know only too well, how 'big' these emotions are in the minds of our little ones. Moreover, children love hearing real stories from their own life and from the lives of someone they know. So when I laced the reading of this book with the story about my son's grandfather and his Raja, Akhil was interminably hooked. It made him want to read this story over and over again, with a mounting interest and excitement each time.

As for the illustrations (by Christian Birmingham), they are very lifelike and with soft watercolours. The colours used are mostly the colours of the night, because the main action takes place outside, in the moonlight. And after the stint outside, on the cold and damp night, it is such a comfort to come home to the warm fire and bundle up and get cosy. That's the exact feel you will get when you take in the illustrations from page to page.

So pick up this book, find your favorite chair, have your child climb on your lap and wind down with this dip in the moonlight!


B o o said...

Wow Tharini! What a way to review a Childrens book! You have done a splendid job. I was visualizing my dad when he was young, in his village,... and he has told us a lot of stories about the cats and a dog they had too. So it was very touching for me.
I feel Im compensating for all the books I did nt get to read when I was a child while I read books to my daughter and I cant wait for her to get older!! :)

Praba Ram said...

Tharini -

A kitten called Raja and A kitten called Moonlight - what two neat kitten treats!

"Moreover, children love hearing real stories from their own life and from the lives of someone they know. "

That is such an important point/tip - reinforcing through real stories is so important - will focus on this in the future!

As Boo mentioned, most of us can relate to some sort of kitten/puppy stories that we've heard or experienced first hand when we were young.. It makes for yet another great platform for story-telling to share with our own children! I need to think and recall the ones I've heard...

The illustrations seem terrific - the shades of night and moonlight renders a warm feel.

Great review and interesting pick!

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Anonymous said...

How beautifully you have narrated one of your childhood have a very nice writing abilities...


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