Category Archives: thriller
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’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 actually evoke a conservative and 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 Books For Keeps 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?
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.
Here’s ‘Come Home Soon’, a song I recorded a while ago, set to pictures of Floozie (RIP), the real-life inspiration for Feela.
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.”
Meanwhile the novel has been published as an e-book by Hachette, the original publishers: nice review of this on Amazon.
The Korean edition is making slow progress, but the publishers there have huge regard for the book and its potential impact in South Korea. Hopefully there will be news of a publication date shortly.
Some people have noticed that The Last Free Cat, besides being a politically-charged thriller increasingly in keeping with the age, is also a romance: check out this considerable honour.
And film-makers please note this further compliment.
The support of enthusiastic fans of the book is invaluable. Reviews, comments on forums etc can really make a difference.
The Last Free Cat is now available in a Japanese translation. It’s a beautiful production, smaller than the UK version, with a cover (shown here in thumbnail) showing Jade and Feela, who has been portrayed accurately from the description in the novel, and shows a remarkable similarity to the real-life model for Feela. Fantastic outfit for Jade as well!
Jon Blake writes:
I’m grateful to a reader for pointing out that the scene in which Feela comes into season may give the wrong impression.
Because of what Jade has heard about ferrets, she is afraid that Feela might die if she doesn’t mate. No-one confirms this, but Amelie suggests it may not do Feela any good is she doesn’t find a tom.
Amelie, however, is not an expert, so I do want to make it clear that female cats are in no danger if they fail to mate when in season. They can, however, run into health problems through continually mating, as I know all too well. The real-life model for Feela became infected when pregnant for the second time while still weak from her first kittens. Her life was only saved by having a hysterectomy (womb removal).
Hope that clears things up.
Jon Blake writes:
I’m just recovering from a nasty dose of swine flu. Unlike the cat flu in ‘The Last Free Cat’, it hasn’t led to hugely expensive pigs, nor have I found an unlicensed one in my garden. But the pandemic has shown how the events in The Last Free Cat really are feasible.
While convalescing I’ve been delighted to find an enthusiastic new customer review on Amazon.
I’m currently at work on an adult novel about the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival of Music (the one starring Dylan). My dad was the electrical contractor for it and I was there at 14. There is a website about it (suitable for teens and adults) here.
Stefanie Hollmichel’s So Many Books is one of the most respected books blogs on the internet – nearly a quarter of a million hits. Stefanie’s recommendations are always looking out for, and now they include The Last Free Cat, of which she says: “it is. . 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.”
The Last Free Cat, at the moment, is only in UK bookshops, but thanks to the wonders of Amazon and other online stores, anyone in the world can order it, so let’s hope it now gets some fans in the USA and beyond!