Thursday, January 27, 2022

Gobbolino the Witch's Cat (Gobbolino #1) by Ursula Moray Williams

Gobbolino's tale first came to life for me when I was six, when my mom and dad invested in the Storyteller books with their cassettes for me – so this was my very first introduction to reading: an abridged version of Ursula Moray Williams' children's classic, Gobbolino the Witch's Cat. I've always wanted to go back at some point and revisit the source material, and while picking up a copy here in South Africa is tricky, Open Library nevertheless came to the rescue – a great resource for anyone looking for hard-to-find, out-of-print editions of books. I have no problem reading on screen, and the nice thing with Open Library is that you can enlarge the print quite comfortably. 

This is very much the sort of book that benefits from being read aloud at bedtime. The chapters are short and contained, and they follow Gobbolino's misadventures as he seeks to distance himself from the evil of his upbringing as a witch's kitten to his rather lofty ambition of becoming a kitchen cat. Now, many years later, this sort of witches and magic = bad is a bit simplistic for me, especially in the light of so many stories where witches and wizards feature who are not evil. But it is what it is is, and Gobbolino is a little anthropomorphised kitty who talks, minds the kitchen and talks to children. Don't overthink things. Williams's moralising also annoyed me somewhat as an adult, but once again, I don't think this sort of thinking might bother smaller children. 

We see Gobbolino try his luck as a ship's cat, a mayor's cat, a knight's cat, a cat attached to travelling performers – and all the while his heritage and abilities as a witch's cat hold him back or cause trouble for him when he tries to do good. Because he is a good kitty, and he wants to please.

If you do lay hands on a copy of this book, read it out loud to your littlies. Try to do all the voices and have fun with the story – because that's what it is. A lovely little redemption arc for a kitten who couldn't help the accident of his birth. But I'm firmly Team Sootica. So there. Meow.

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