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.
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!
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.
It’s good to know that The Last Free Cat is still attracting attention around the world. Following the review posted earlier from a top US books blogger, the novel has now had a huge recommendation from a reviewer on the Hong Kong based South China Morning Post. The review is posted in thumbnail form below.
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.
Ruth Taylor, reviewing The Last Free Cat for the children’s books magazine Books For Keeps, says “this is 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.”