The Mousehole Cat – Antonia Barber

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 point
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point

This is an excellent example of how a book can fail on all the technicalities and yet still be an utter delight.

The Mousehole Cat is a story about a courageous fisherman and his courageous cat and how they risk everything together to feed their village. I kind of don’t want to say much more about it because if you haven’t read it, the unfolding story is just beautiful.

Mowser is a slightly irrascible cat and she helps her human in that perfectly grudging “I would rather stay by the fire, but you obviously can’t do this without me” kind of way that belies a deep (if grumpy) love for him.

The story manages to show the importance of courage and kindness, of pulling together as a community, without being didactic or moralistic. There is just a smidge of magic, just enough to make you think it might be real.

It’s about a fisherman and his cat in an English fishing village, so it is not surprising that it fails Bechdel and any kind of diversity, but it is still totally worth a read.

Neither the kid nor I had read it before, and we both thoroughly loved it. ❤

Ameliaranne and the Green Umbrella -Constance Heward

POINTS: 5 out of 10.

Bechdel: 1 point
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 2 points

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This is a great little story about a little girl who is resourceful and kind. Ameliaranne is going to a tea-party at “the Squire’s” but all her little brothers and sisters are sick and can’t go along. So Ameliaranne takes a green umbrella with her and proceeds to sneak cakes and scones away in it for her siblings. She is caught at this, but instead of being punished the Squire (who, it turns out, was watching her the whole time and saw that she ate nothing herself) rewards her kindness by sending her home with a packed tea for her whole family.

I love that Ameliaranne herself is such a strong, resourceful, kind girl. Given this book was written in 1920, it’s pretty cool to see a female protagonist show initiative like that. Also, honestly, I am a sucker for stories that show kids being kind, especially to siblings. C, apparently, shares this with me, because his response was, “That’s really nice of her, isn’t it, Mommy?”

Of course. there’s some class stuff going on here. For all the Squire responds to the situation with kindness, he apparently is doing nothing on a day to day basis about people like this poor single mother who does other people’s laundry for money and is forced to feed her six children gruel most of the time. He definitely seems to think that giving the children an annual teaparty is sufficient to be considered a jolly old chap.

The book does, however, pass the Bechdel. Ameliaranne has conversations with her mother (who is called Mrs. Stibbons, not just “Mother” or some such like in so many kids’ books), and a couple with Josephine, the Squire’s rather bitter nasty sister, who catches Ameliaranne at her sibling food hoarding in the first place.

Despite the dodgy class stuff, it’s really a very charming story, and C loved it more than I expected him to do. (He really does have a liking for stories about kindness, which is pretty cool, if you ask me.) So it gets points for that from both of us. Worth a read. 🙂