The one and only adult novel by Gillian Mears that I tried to read many, many years ago was The Grass Sisters.
I simply couldn’t get into.
Maybe it was the wrong book at the wrong time, maybe I was too young to appreciate it properly (although 28 isn’t that young!)
Whatever the reason, I haven’t picked up another Mears since…
…until The Cat with the Coloured Tail that is.
And I’m so glad I did.
Packaged as an early reader, this poignant, delicious, heart-felt fable will actually appeal to a much wider reader range than 6-8 yr olds.
This is a book with layers of meaning, or perhaps more accurately, layers of feeling. Kindness and sadness, loss and caring, hope and despair weave together to offer all of us a sense of healing and fellowship.
The cat lives with Mr Hooper in an almost symbiotic relationship. They give each other love and happiness and security. They also give out kindness and love to all in need. The cat’s tail would only ever change colour to help people feel happy. Depending on the colour of his tail, Mr Hooper would then create a corresponding moon ice-cream for the person in need.
To eat a moon-cream was like licking love and happiness both at once. After a moon-cream, life would always be luckier.
Mr Hooper and the cat help some very sad, desperate folk, but how can they help the very heart of the world when it too sickens and becomes sad?
Some of Mears’ cat descriptions are so perfect you can almost feel the cat curled up in your lap or poking his head out through the top of your jumper. His kitten-like way of chasing his own tail of happiness is an image that I will cherish for a long time to come.
Dinalie Dabarera’s sweet pencil drawings add to the charm and mood of this book. She includes many heart-shaped designs for Mr Hooper (and for us) to find. Her colour palette moves us through the many feeling phases within this story.
Finally, the author quote on the cover.
Some famous authors have been known to write cover quotes that barely rise above the ‘great book, you should read this’ baseline.
Imagine Mears’ delight when she read Tim Winton’s quote for her book for the first time.
Gillian Mears’ distinctive voice is undimmed and her yearning fable is a sweet and gentle reminder of the two great forces that lie dormant within us – kindness and hope. Her work hasn’t just described life; it’s enhanced it. And we owe her thanks.
This post is part of #AusReadingMonth and my Australian Women Writer’s challenge.