I first read this book when I was 10, and am now reading it to my 7-yearold. Like me, he is enraptured. The story has elements of other classicfantasy, a powerful ring, an alternative world, talking animals and thepower of magic for both good and evil. What makes this book special andpoignant, however, are the ever-present themes of loss, the separation ofchild from parent, the isolation of being different, being caught in thewrong world . The characters are outrageously and vividly drawn, memorableexamples being Heliotrope, the ineffectual spectre who gets things "caughtin his lining", the chorus of faintly camp sheep, and the fantasticGrimbold himself. He is a sardonic prince amongst cats, and moves sleeklythrough the world of humans and the shadows and shades of the night world,unravelling the plot and leading the magical journey of Muffler, thedreamy boy who finds his poetry and kindness valuable assets on the otherside of the gap. There is a theatrical quality to the book which makesit enjoyable and amusing to read aloud, and a sparkle of wit sharp enoughtto keep a jaded adult happy and to delight even a child accustomed to xboxand Powerrangers. I hope my sonwill remember this as fondly as I do, areal classic, and a great discovery.
Nicholas Stuart Gray is inexplicably overlooked by the search for lost children's classics, and this is one of his best. (Try to get hold of the edition illustrated by Charles Grey). It tells of the adventures of Muffler, a foundling boy who is part goatherd, part poet, given the gift of travelling between the ordinary world and that of magic by Grimbold, a magnificent bad-tempered cat. Most of the chapters are short stories (and in fact Muffler has one other adventure recounted on Mainly by Moonlight, a wonderful collection of short stories) in which magical things happen. A dragon blunders into our world, and the farm hob is blow away; a dog goes missing, and a lost Prince is sought. Humour, bad verse and some beautiful prose get mixed up to produce a book with a very unusual atmosphere. Gray was one of the few children's writers who really creates a feeling of magic as something mysterious, slightly dangerous and attractive. Faber republished this in the early 1980s but it should be reissued for new generations.
I remember reading this when I was about 8 years old and it was great to find it still available. I have just read it to my 8 years old grand-daughter who was soon hopelessly captured by that Prince among Cats and the poor goatherd who was able to move between worlds and see the mystery of the night world. Good adventures with talking animals, unicorns, sorcerers, princes, horses who could fly ..... a feast for the imagination! All aspects of human emotion are encountered as there are some poignant moments and lessons to be gathered. A cracking story for children of all ages.