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 continues to make waves in the USA: a great little review from a teen reader recently on Teen Ink which is one of the best summaries of the book I’ve seen. Many more reviews also on Goodreads which demonstrate that readers either love it or hate it – fortunately the lovers are in a large majority! The fact that some don’t like it at all does not surprise me. The book has a powerful sense of right and wrong which will not be shared by those of a conservative disposition. It prides me greatly that Albert Whitman recognised this in choosing the book for their very select imprint, which you can read about here.
The novel has also been re-reviewed in the key journal School Library Review (no link available) where it was first reviewed in 2008, and on Kirkus.
All this attention to a book written in Cardiff, Wales, has however failed to impress the organisers of the first Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival, which takes place in March this year. Despite the fact I have been singlehandedly flying the flag for Cardiff on the children’s literature stage for over 25 years, in China, Japan, Australia, the US, South Africa, Taiwan, half of Europe and more, they have decided I am surplus to requirements. Never mind the 300,000 books I have sold, nor the quarter century of school visits and community arts projects through which I have sought to inspire generations of young people in South Wales. Never mind the fact I have been published by almost every major publishing house in the UK as well as those abroad. I will leave my books to speak for themselves and others to judge whether the Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival will be devalued by my absence. In the meantime thanks to all those who have bought The Last Free Cat or any other of my 56 books: it is your views I value.
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.
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!
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.
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!