Sonya Hartnett has written some terrific stuff over the years and it is easy to see how she has the following that she does (and is shortlisted as often as she is). Come down, cat! shows her versatility in being able to create books for every audience. The story is a very simple exploration of the way that fear is a very personal thing, that bravery comes not from not being scared but in the overcoming of fears. And that cats are selfish.
The book introduces Nicholas who is worse than the Nazis because he allows his cat out of the house. Nicholas is afraid of the dark, he has a cat who is up on the roof and is afraid of the rain, night is falling and a storm is coming in. Can you see where this is going?
The story is perfectly written. The dialogue between the cat and Nicholas is witty and the descriptive language that Hartnett uses is evocative and spooky. We really get in touch with the characters in this story.
The illustrations in the book add a third dimension to the text. The drawings are so dynamic that it feels like you are seeing this book rather than reading it. As the story plays out we hear the creaking of the ladder, feel the wind around us and experience the great height of the roof. Lucia Marsciullo introduces a new and unspoken fear that is so powerful it left my hands sweating.
Just as Nicholas is not afraid of the rain and the cat is not afraid of the dark, neither of the characters is particularly bothered by the height of the roof. But I am. Nicholas braves actual danger and irrational fear in the story, the cat just hangs out in the dark. Readers can take comfort when relating this book to their lives that others may not find what they find scary scary (yeah, that’s how I’m chosing to say that). Alternatively they may be inspired by Nicholas and his ability to overcome his fear. Furthermore, they may be discouraged from letting their cats outside. Win, win, win.