The new revised edition of The Last Free Cat was launched in a packed Canton Library, Cardiff, on Friday 29 November. We’d hoped for a decent crowd, but the numbers that turned up, and showed such enthusiasm, far exceeded our expectation. Clips from the event will shortly appear on social media, but thanks to everyone who came and left with a limited first edition, beautiful free cat bookmark and big hunk of free cat cake. We do not have the huge marketing budget of a major publisher, so word of mouth is so important and all help is appreciated in getting this acclaimed YA thriller to people’s attention. Copies are now available to order here.
The Last Free Cat was first published by Hodder in the UK in 2008 and a few years later by Albert Whitman in the US, where it was selected by the International Literacy Association for the Young Choices list – the best YA novels of the year. With its passionate opposition to privatisation, the book was derided by supporters of Donald Trump but loved by just about everybody else (see reviews). Several months ago I regained the rights to the book and began making plans to republish it myself. I secured the services of Rebecca Harry as illustrator, convinced she could produce the kind of cover the book had previously lacked. She did not disappoint, and the beautiful new volume, subtly revised from the first edition and also featuring interior illustrations, is now available.
For the next three months I shall visit schools, libraries, bookshops or writers’ groups free of charge, and participants will not only get a talk all about the book but the opportunity of buying signed and dedicated copies at normal retail price. If you are interested in this please contact me.
“I’ve read several very good chase novels for teenagers lately, but I think this one is my favourite. The writing is top notch and it has something for everyone. Take it as my tip for a major award” Bookbag
“The Last Free Cat is one of the best young adult adventures in a long time. Be prepared to share. Everyone will want to read this” Hackwriters
“A story of optimism and solidarity in the face of oppression. The beauty of the relationship between human and animal is touchingly conveyed and the book culminates in a sense of hope that is truly uplifting.” Books For Keeps
“Cat lovers aren’t the only readers who’ll want to get their claws into this fantastic feline thriller” National Geographic Kids
“It is a coming of age story filled with teen angst and young love. But it is also a story about finding the truth, working for a greater cause and taking a stand. The book is also filled with wonderful instances of the kindness of strangers and goodness coming from unexpected places. If you have a cat-loving reader on your holiday list this year, this might be the book for them” So Many Books
“A chilling yet compelling read. A very satisfying and brave book that does not go in for easy answers” School Librarian
“As a discerning parent, I would be comfortable recommending it to children ages 11 and up. I have two sons who are young teens and they liked it very much and asked me to find more books by this author” A Confirmed Bookworm
“The coming-of-age tale of a young teen who is forced to become self-aware, self-confident, and able to decide for herself what is right. The anti-authoritarian themes provide an excellent opportunity to discuss issues such as the role of multinational corporations, the appropriateness of government and/or corporate control, and the freedom of information” Rutgers
“Gripping, futuristic feline thriller” The Bournemouth Echo
“A worthy and exciting novel, which raises a number of pertinent issues” Write Away
“Whether you’re a cat lover or not, the book will inspire you to think a bit more about your pets, how valuable they are and what the world would be like if you couldn’t have them” Chicklish
“A brilliant idea and a page turning thriller” The Northern Echo
See reviews for more.
I’ve lost count of the number of people who have said that The Last Free Cat would make a great movie. And whereas so many teenage dystopias spring from a despairing view of the world, The Last Free Cat radically questions our current world order and finds a real source of hope.
In Hollywood, they say, you must be able to pitch your idea for a film in two sentences. So here are two sentences which describe The Last Free Cat:
In a world where cats are marketed like Rolexes, it is strictly illegal to own a stray. Law-abiding teenager Jade finds an unregistered cat in her garden, falls in love with it, and ends up on a flight from the authorities which radically changes the way she looks at the world.
There is, of course, much more to the story than two sentences can convey: importantly, it’s also about a human relationship and has been chosen by Bookbag as one of its top ten teen romances.
Given its political significance, The Last Free Cat is predictably a story which divides opinion, but a brief read through the reviews on Goodreads confirms that it is a book with a huge impact on its fans. In 2013 it was selected by the ILA as one of the top thirty YA books published in the US. As a film it could maybe be an award-winner?
In a market saturated by funny stories for children, it’s a great honour to be shortlisted for the 2017 Lollies (Laugh Out Loud awards). Thimble Monkey Superstar is my fifty-somethingth novel for juniors in a career of many ups and downs, and this nomination comes twenty-one years after Little Stupendo was shortlisted for the Children’s Book Award – also in concert with that fantastic illustrator Martin Chatterton. The central character (not the monkey!) is based on my young son who has cerebral palsy.
Those who know me for my teen thriller The Last Free Cat or adult novel 69ers (aka When Dylan Sank the Isle of Wight) might be disappointed that Thimble is not quite as radical in content, but I can assure you it is not conservative in any way either! Judge Michael Rosen has written that it would be good to see humorous books for kids taking on more political themes, but all I can say is, I have tried! First we need publishers willing to take a punt on such books.
Now that the shortlists have been drawn up, The Lollies are decided by popular vote. There’s an inbuilt advantage for those authors already well known through TV with thousands of followers on social media (David Baddiel won last year and is shortlisted again in the 9-12 category), but I know already that children love Thimble, and like all my books, Thimble Monkey Superstar is nothing if not original. You can buy it at a discount price from excellent indie publisher Firefly Press, and if you or you kids like it, please vote for it!
I swore I would not turn this site into a general site about cats, but Flora, the part-Bengal successor to Floozie, on whom The Last Free Cat was based, does I think deserve international recognition for her ability to crawl into the smallest and most unsuitable places.
I never intended this site to be used for the general discussion of cats, but Flora’s litter (discussed below) included a disabled kitten, and I thought it would be useful to share our experience.
As soon as the kittens began to walk it was clear there was something wrong with Fireboy, the little black-and-white one (named after his dad, Fireman, who he so closely resembled). Unlike the other kittens, Fireboy could not seem to get his back legs up. He dragged them around rather like a frog’s: they seemed weak and undeveloped. We considered taking him to the vet, but with the cost of consultations so high, checked out the web first. There we came across the condition known as Swimmer Kitten Syndrome, whose symptoms closely matched Fireboy’s. According to some articles, vets had recommended putting down kittens with this problem, which is probably caused by a lack of space in the womb. However, some cat owners claimed to have cured the condition either by taping the legs together or making a sling with which to hold up the back legs. We rejected the latter idea as we did not have the time nor energy to walk around supporting the back end of a kitten all day long. However we tried the former. We bought microporous surgical tape, about 2cm wide, and I wound it around the bottom part of Fireboy’s legs, joining them together so that they were about 4cm apart – tight enough to prevent his feet from sliding outward, but loose enough for him to get about.
Needless to say, Fireboy was not keen on this at first, but he soon got used to it. With his hips now in the right position, all his running and climbing was now strengthening the muscles and teaching him correct movement. After eight days I took the tape off and hey presto! He was walking upright. His feet were still rather splayed and his haunches smaller than his siblings, but continuous exercise seems to be rectifying things. He’s a fabulous little kitten, probably the most adventurous of the bunch, and a lovely looking thing to boot. So there we go: swimmer kitten syndrome, as others have claimed, is a curable problem. Maybe if I get around to writing a sequel to The Last Free Cat, as so many have urged me, this experience could be incorporated into that fictional world.
For more about my 50+ children’s books, including Thimble Monkey Superstar, shortlisted for the 2017 Lollies (Laugh Out Loud awards) check out my main website.
There’s been nothing much to say about The Last Free Cat lately. It’s been selling steadily, particularly the e-book, and collecting excellent reviews on Amazon and Goodreads (apart from a bizarre campaign against the book from people who were disappointed when I told them that the novel had nothing to do with the abortion issue). In real life, however, we got ourselves a worthy successor to Floozie, the inspiration for The Last Free Cat. Flora is a beautiful little part-Bengal tabby, a quite unique mixture of colours with a great temperament. She came on heat on Valentines Day and gave birth under our bed just after Easter. I’ve been closely observing her four fantastic kittens ever since, partly because their development is so fascinating, partly because they just might feature in a sequel if I ever decide to write it. As you can see from the three here, they are the perfect antidote for anyone like me who does not find it easy to relax.
The Last Free Cat has been selected for the 2013 IRA Young Adults’ Choices reading list, the first Albert Whitman title to be accorded this honour. The IRA (International Reading Association, not Irish Republican Army, btw) is the world’s leading organisation of literacy professionals, and its young adults’ reading list is limited to about 30 titles per year. To quote the IRA website, “since 1987, the Young Adults’ Choices project has developed an annual list of new books that will encourage adolescents to read. The books are selected by the readers themselves, so they are bound to be popular with middle and secondary school students. The reading list is a trusted source of book recommendations, used by adolescents, their parents, teachers, and librarians.”
The Last Free Cat is published this weekend (Sept 1) in the US, but already the advance copies released by Albert Whitman have generated plenty of interest and some great reviews on Goodreads. There’s now a page devoted to the book on facebook: please join if you’re a fan.
News also from South Korea that this long-awaited edition will hopefully be out in October.
I’ve also got a few new ebooks out: the two-follow-ups to my best-selling comic junior novel One Girl School, and Snails and Lovers, a novel for older teens which first came out in the 80s as Geoffrey’s First. The Sunday Times described it as a “funny and moving love story”: before I wrote The Last Free Cat I’d have described it as my best book.