The Blue Cat
"I only know the cat is blue..."
Click here to read distinguished New Zealand novelist's Kate de Goldi's speech at the Sydney launch. For teachers's notes for the novel, click here. And click here for recent reviews and here and here for blog interviews. Also here and here for guest blog posts written by Ursula.
The Russian Blue is sometimes described as the "Doberman Pinscher" of cats. Read more about the breed here and here. Click here to see how cats open their eyes in excitement at the moment they pounce. And here to read "Hawk Roosting" by Ted Hughes.
Sydney during World War II
And another short video below about the night attacks on Sydney Harbour by Japanese submarines at the end of May 1942, which is when "The Blue Cat" finishes.
Daylight Saving Time was put in place in Australia, 2am January 1st 1942, to save power during the war. The War Cabinet decided to make the change at 2am so as not to upset people celebrating the midnight chimes at New Year's Eve! Click here for more about the history of daylight saving time.
Columba, Hilda and Ellery wander around the streets of the inner northern suburbs of Sydney, on the edge of the harbour, a kind of imagined mixture of Cremorne, Neutral Bay and Kurraba Point.
MacCallum Pool where they go swimming is on Cremorne Point and is still in use today.
Luna Park, where Columba, Hilda and Ellery go in search of the blue cat, is on the water's edge of North Sydney. It first opened in 1935.
Most of the rides in Coney Island that you will see in the videos are the same as when Columba, Hilda and Ellery were there, including the Barrels of Fun, the Wheel of Joy and the Turkey Trot.
Child Refugees in World War Two
Desperate Jewish refugee families fled all over the world for safety, wherever they were allowed to go. Sometimes children were hidden inside their own or neighbouring countries and sometimes they were even sent overseas alone, as their parents were unable to get visas for themselves. Some children and parents managed to come as far as Australia.
The Trojan War
But Homer's story is largely the story of the conquering army, the Greeks, and their heroes, whereas The Aeneid is the story of the victims of the war, the Trojans. The Trojan hero, Aeneas, is driven out of his burning city, with his father on his back and his little son by his side. His wife, Creusa, is lost in the dark streets and left behind. Aeneas and his people must set sail without her to find a new homeland...
Mother, father, grandfather, child. Aeneas carries his father on his back and holds his child to his side, while his wife follows. This scene of a refugee family escaping the war-ravaged city has been represented many times by painters through the centuries. In the big scenes you will have to look for the little family group. Click on the image to see the artist's details.
Songs from "The Blue Cat"
This is the song that the children sing while Hilda is on stage wrapped up in the Union Jack.
There'll always be an England
While there's a country lane,
Wherever there's a cottage small
Beside a field of grain.
There'll always be an England
While there's a busy street,
Wherever there's a turning wheel,
A million marching feet.
Red, white and blue; what does it mean to you?
Surely you're proud, shout it aloud,
The Empire too, we can depend on you.
Freedom remains. These are the chains
Nothing can break.
There'll always be an England,
And England shall be free
If England means as much to you
As England means to me.
The school B-flat flute band plays this tune as the children march into school. Flute bands were common in NSW public schools at this time, very largely due to the lasting influence of inspirational educator Victor McMahon, who arranged songs in parts as in the booklet below.
"I often think they have only just gone out"
At the end of The Blue Cat is a poem by the German writer Friedrick Ruckert, which was put to music by the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler in 1905, part of a series of songs known as the Kindertotenlieder. You can listen to it here, sung in German with English subtitles.
Die Schatzinsel, the book that Ellery is always reading, is the German title for the famous pirate adventure novel Treasure Island, by Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson. Featuring the one -legged pirate Long John Silver, Treasure Island is one of the most published, filmed, dramatised and greatly loved books in the history of literature.
Stevenson traveled all around the world, and spent the final years of his short life in the South Pacific, including a number of trips to Sydney. He died in Samoa in 1894.
New editions of these books are now available in paperback and electronic book, with cover and design by Amy Golbach. "The First Book of Samuel" won the NSW Premier's Literary Award, was an Honour Book in the Children's Book Council of Australia Awards, and was shortlisted for the Adelaide Festival Award for Literature. "Theodora's Gift" won both the NSW and Victorian Premier's Literary Awards.
For further background material and teaching resources on both these books, click here.