My favorite kind of mail is Surprise Mail: the packages that I didn’t order, but that arrive on our porch unannounced and full of possibility.
The Mousehole Cat arrived in just such a package: a friend sent it as a surprise, but also, because the card ended up arriving separately a few days later, as a bit of a mystery. I saw her name on the package but I didn’t have context for the gift. Instead, we opened the book and wondered at it—the why? and the what for?—before we sat down to lunch and read it aloud.
And the book was wonderful. The Mousehole Cat is about a cat, Mowzer, who lives with a fisherman in a place called “The Mousehole” because the bay is almost completely closed off from the sea, but when a storm rolls in that prevents the townsfolk from fishing and famine looms over them, the fisherman makes a brave and sacrificial decision to save the town. And Mowzer sails out with him.
The illustrations in this book are detailed and gorgeous, so much so that it felt hard to read aloud (almost!) because my eyes kept straying toward the pictures even as I tried to read the words. Imagine: Nicola Bayley portrays the storm as the Great Storm-Cat, personifying it in a way that makes it fun for young readers to spot the Cat curled among the clouds and wind, batting playfully with the waves and pouncing through the sky. How could one not get a little lost in illustrations like that?
The only solution, I suppose, is to read it again—and again—making this a book worth savoring. Through both the story and the illustrations, The Mousehole Cat gives us a stunningly beautiful example of what it can look like to love not merely “in word or talk but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18).
The Mousehole Cat
Antonia Barber; Nicola Bayley (1990)