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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Cat Who Came in off the Roof (The)
by Annie M. G. Schmidt
Age Range: 9-11
Tibble is a talented local reporter but there is one slight problem, he only ever writes about cats and that doesn’t please his editor who is on the verge of firing him. Tibble is given one last chance to come up with a good story by tomorrow morning and it must definitely not be about cats!
When Tibble meets a young woman called Miss Minou it is in the most unlikely of circumstances; she is stuck up a tree after being chased by a dog. Tibble lets her move into his flat but is amazed when she prefers to sleep in a box and begins to display some worrying cat-like traits: she’s terrified of dogs, likes wandering on the rooftops, hanging around the fishmonger, lying in wait at a mouse hole and rubbing her head against humans – all such ‘cattish’ things.
Minou becomes Tibble’s secretary and she does have one useful cattish trait - she can communicate with all the other cats. This allows Minou to form the Cat Press Agency and through the gossip grapevine of these intelligent, anthropomorphised cats she is able to provide local human news for Tibble.
School Cat’s news is generally from the history lessons he sits in on and is at least a hundred years out of date; the stray Tatter Cat always has an ear to the ground and knows everything, the Council Cat is up on all the town hall affairs and even Tibble’s own cat Fluff searches for the latest stories, although he isn’t really a news cat preferring to relate gossip about other cats.
When information is relayed to Tibble about a prominent and well-respected member of the community committing a crime and being cruel to animals it is impossible to prove. Tibble takes the decision to publish an article without any proof. How is he going to defend his story when his evidence all comes from cats? Luckily Minou and Bibi, a young girl who lives nearby, are on hand to save the day.
Written in 1970 by Dutch author Annie M.G. Schmidt, who was regarded as the Queen of Dutch Children’s Literature and won the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1989, this quaint tale is a true classic. The characterisation of the cats is so well defined and the humour, particularly from Minou and her cat-like behaviour is endearing. Even the illustrations, including the front cover which gives a subtle hint of the story inside together with the grey cameos images heading each chapter showing cats in a variety of poses, enhance its quirkiness.
Now available in English 44 years after it was first published, this utterly delectable story can be enjoyed by a new generation of children and cat-loving adults.