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Blitzcat Paperback – 8 Feb 2002
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SHE MADE HER WAY DOWN THE CLIFF, AND ON TO THE BEACH. AT THE EDGE OF THE WAVES, SHE STOPPED, SHAKING HER WET PAWS. SHE KNEW THAT SOMEWHERE AHEAD WAS HER PERSON, BUT FAR, FAR AWAY. SHE MIAOWED PLAINTIVELY; STOOD STARING AT THE MOVING BLUR OF UNCROSSABLE SEA. SHE LED THE WAY TO SAFETY, OUT OF THE BLAZING HELL OF BLITZED COVENTRY. PEOPLE TOUCHED HER FOR LUCK; FEARED HER AS AN OMEN OF DISASTER. WHEREVER SHE WENT, SHE CHANGED LIVES...FROM HER BEGINNING TO HER END SHE NEVER WAVERED. SHE WAS THE BLITZCAT. WESTALL S WRITING HAS ...
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A very engaging read. Westall uses his love for cats to create an unassuming, naturally courageous and naturally 'knowing' heroine, whose long journey through wartime England in search of her 'person' is the thread that holds together the eight or nine self-contained vignettes of ordinary lives during the Blitz. The long trains full of shell-shocked men just out of Dunkirk, or the terror of burning Coventry and the plight of its refugees, can thus fit naturally into the same book as the young war widow who has given up on life, the frightened young rear gunner on endless bombing raids over the Channel, the young officer's wife in Dover who despite herself falls in love with the Scots sergeant whose men are billeted in her house, etc. Each vignette is sufficiently developed for the people to be real and memorable, and to give us a convincing feel for the everyday life of a nation at war. And to each person she encounters the black cat brings wisdom; call it 'luck'.
'Blitzcat' won the 1989 Smarties Prize in the 9-11 age category, but I imagine some 9-year-olds would find the adult concerns of the characters not very accessible. Apart from one incidental baby there is not a child in sight, for example. Perhaps the exploration of cat-hood makes up for this? More simply, I would recommend this book to readers of ANY age who are interested in history, in human reactions under stress - and who like cats!
The striking quality of `Blitzcat' is that the main character (Lord Gort) is believable, loveable and undeniably an animal, meaning that the author has cleverly portrayed a cat's perspective with what feels like little to no human bias. The cat is the thread that draws the random human characters together and serves as a cunning tool to lure the young reader into learning about the lives of British people during the war.
This read is borderline Year 6 due to the hard content and upsetting turn of events that may be too much for the sensitive pupil. But for a child that is interested in world events (WWII) and 20th century history, this vivid and real book offers a gateway to the further study of history.
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