Bessie Sullivan, County Librarian: Hello, I’m Bessie Sullivan from the Haliburton County Public Library and this is Library Moments. Once a week some of us from the library will come and talk about books, upcoming events, or the services we offer at the library.
August’s online book club theme was books about dogs in honour of the dog days of summer; it felt only fair to do something with cats in September. The books we picked all have cats in the title and are by a Canadian author. Cool Canadian Cats include: The Cat by Edeet Ravel, Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood, The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje, and The Cat at the Wall by Deborah Ellis. Sherrill Sherwood, Erin Kernohan-Berning and I will each talk about one of these titles.
Sherrill Sherwood, Collections Development: Author Deborah Ellis has achieved international acclaim with her courageous and dramatic juvenile and young adult books that give Western readers a glimpse into the plight of children in developing countries. In her just published book, The Cat at the Wall, a cat sneaks into a small Palestinian house on the West Bank that has been seized by two Israeli soldiers. The house seems empty, until the cat realizes that a little boy is hiding beneath the floorboards. Should she help him? After all, she’s just a cat. Or is she? She was once a regular North American girl. That was before she died and came back to life as a cat. When the little boy is discovered, the soldiers don’t know what to do with him. It is not long before his teacher and classmates come looking for him, and the house is suddenly surrounded by Palestinian villagers throwing rocks, and the sound of Israeli tanks approaching. As the soldiers begin to panic and disaster seems certain, the cat knows that it is up to her to diffuse the situation. But what can a cat do? What can any one creature do? Deborah Ellis is controversial for shedding light on world situations that some people think may be too mature for young readers but are definitely appropriate for adults.
Erin Kernohan-Berning, Branch Services Librarian: Michael Ondaatje plays with the line between autobiography and fiction in The Cat’s Table. Young Mynah boards the ship Oronsay leaving the port city of Colombo in Sri Lanka and sailing to England where he will meet with his estranged mother. He is on the voyage alone, save for the friends he meets on board and his cohorts at Table 76 – the diners at the Cat’s Table, the table farthest away from the Captain’s Table and the least prestigious on the ship. During the 21 day trip as they pass through the Indian Ocean, enter the Gulf of Aden and cross the Red Sea and then into the Mediterranean, Mynah and his new friends the bold Cassius and the gentle Ramadhin fight the boredom of the voyage and vow to do something forbidden every day. As they run, untamed, throughout the ship they interact with a rich cast of characters including down on his luck musician Mr. Muzappa, the cursed Sir Hector De Silva, Miss Lasqueti who carries pigeons in her pockets, a mysterious Baron, Mr. Daniels who keeps a secret garden in the bowels of the ship, and the beautiful Emily who Mynah falls in love with. We later find out that Mynah’s full name is Michael, who grows up to be an author living in Canada – Ondaatje himself was born in Sri Lanka and emigrated to England during the 1950s, the time in which The Cat’s Table is set, before coming to Canada in the 1960’s. While Ondaatje maintains that The Cat’s Table is a work of fiction, it is certainly informed by his own experiences as a young boy which leads to the story taking on a very vivid quality that makes you feel like you are making mischief along with him as you travel the rolling seas. You can enjoy The Cat’s Table in print, or you might like the audiobook which is read by the author.
Bessie: From acclaimed author Edeet Ravel comes a profound and heart-wrenching story that captures the essence of grief and hope in the midst of tragedy. Single mother Elise is completely devoted to her eleven-year-old son; he is her whole world. But that world is destroyed in one terrifying moment when her son is killed in a car accident just outside their home. Suddenly alone, surrounded by memories, Elise faces a future that feels unspeakably bleak and pointless. Lost, angry and desolate, Elise rejects everyone who tries to reach out to her. But as despair threatens to engulf her, she realizes, to her horror, that she cannot join her son: she must take care of his beloved cat. At first she attempts to carry out this task entirely by herself, shut away from a frightening new reality that seems surreal and incomprehensible. But isolation proves to be impossible, and before long others insinuate themselves into her life, friends, enemies, colleagues, neighbours, a former lover bringing with them the fragile beginnings of survival. Powerfully moving and deeply humane, The Cat is an unforgettable novel about the extraordinary resilience of the human spirit. The Cat is also one of this year’s Evergreen Award titles. Next month at any of our library branches you can vote for your favourite from the list of ten including The Cat.
Anyone can participate in Haliburton County Public Library’s Online Book Club, by choosing to read one or more of four books selected each month. After close to two years in existence, the club now boasts 78 members. To join, look for the Social Media links on our homepage at www.haliburtonlibrary.ca. Click on the “g” for Goodreads and it’ll take you right to the Online Book Club page. That’s it for this week’s Library Moments, thanks for listening here on 100.9 Canoe FM.
*Originally aired September 21st – 27th, 2014 on 100.9 CANOE FM.