Selected reviews "The Blue Cat"

Sydney Morning Herald    April 7 2017

Reviewed by Kerryn Goldsworthy

A magical narrative set during the darkest days of war

This book by the award-winning Ursula Dubosarsky is recommended for readers aged 10-14, and I wish I could have read it when I was 10. It combines a realistic historical setting – Sydney in the early 1940s – with a magical, faintly sinister narrative strand involving a mysterious and not very nice cat, and there are some wonderful illustrations from the period.

The narrator and heroine is Columba, a child named for a symbol of peace, living through the darkest days of a war. First the Nazis occupy Paris, then Singapore falls, and then Darwin is bombed, and meanwhile a mysterious foreign child appears at Columba's school.

This book is about several things at once: fear, loss, history, nationality, family and friendship. Dubosarsky does a superb job in creating a character who doesn't fully understand what is happening around her, and is struggling to make sense of a frightening world.


Reading Time: Children’s Book Council of AustraliaMay 24 201

Reviewed by Liz Derouet

 It is 1942. Columba lives in Sydney, on the harbour. Many things in her life are changing because of the war, much of which she does not understand. Her best friend Hilda, however, appears to know everything and enjoys sharing her knowledge. The war seems to be influencing everything in Columba’s life, from changing the time on clocks to new arrivals in Sydney. Ellery comes from Europe with his father at about the same time the blue cat appears in the neighbourhood. Ellery is unable to speak English and carries a book, written in German, around with him everywhere. The blue cat follows Columba’s neighbour, Miss Hazel, home from the ferry one evening; its arrival is as mysterious as Ellery’s. Columba, like many of the children, are fascinated by Ellery, and she and Hilda befriend him, the three embarking on an adventure through the streets and attractions of 1940s harbour-side Sydney, in pursuit of the blue cat.

Ursula Dubosarsky is one of the finest writers. This superb narrative is told with the innocence of childhood, from the viewpoint of a child, while at the same time knowing the older reader, for whom it is intended, will pick up on the nuances, uncertainties and horrors of World War Two. The imagery is strong, firmly placing the reader in time and place. The characters are depicted finely with Dubosarsky’s typically lyrical prose. Her writing is truly wonderful in this book. However, it is not only the writing that is well worked and refined. Throughout the narrative are archival material from the period, poems, artwork and other information pertaining to various aspects of the story, some very different to each other.

Magpies: Talking about Books for Children Volume 32 No. 1 March 2017reviewed by Rayma Turton   Click here.


Australian Books and PublishingFebruary 27 2017

 Reviewed by Meg Whelan


Slow, dreamlike and meandering, The Blue Cat is a glimpse into life in wartime Australia. Set in Sydney in 1942, it follows Columba in her adventures with her force-of-nature best friend Hilda and the new student at their school, Ellery—the boy running from the war in far-away Europe. Together they search for the beautiful blue cat that suddenly moved in next door and just as suddenly disappeared. The Blue Cat is gorgeously written and wildly evocative of wartime Sydney, exploring a time when the war has drawn closer to home, both through the bombings in Darwin and the arrival of refugees. Columba’s quiet confusion is a perfect introduction to this time and place, and as small as her world is, the story is certainly well-placed within the wider historical context. The inclusion of primary sources adds a layer of authenticity while also highlighting some uncomfortable truths about the treatment of refugees, both then and now. With an almost fairytale feel, The Blue Cat takes readers on a strange journey into a time of constant change and fear. It’s perfect for ages 10 and up.


Readings Kids 28 March 2017

Reviewed by Dani Solomon

Told from the point of view of a young girl called Columba, The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky is a strange little tale in which not much really happens at all. Set during World War II in Sydney, it mostly covers what happens during Columba’s days: bits of conversations she overhears about the war from her parents, neighbours or teachers; dramatic interpretations of war news by her loud, brash friend, Hilda; and a mysterious new foreign boy, Ellery from ‘You-rope’ who speaks no English.

Ellery is said to be German and Jewish, and Columba is told, by her teachers and her mother, only to be kind to him. She finds herself drawn to him. The book comes to a close when Hilda, Ellery and Columba race through Luna Park to find a missing cat – but The Blue Cat doesn’t end, not really. It sort of fades out slowly so you only catch misty snatches of a near future and when you’ve finally closed the book and think back you’re not sure you didn’t just dream the whole thing up yourself. A great read for 10–12 year olds.