When I was young, my mother gave me a book from her childhood, Orlando the Marmalade Cat – His Silver wedding. I’m still fascinated by the illustrations of Kathleen Hale which captivated me as a child, and I’ve never seen an illustrator manage to evoke the slinky, almost human characteristics of cats with such grace and humour. Searching for more titles led me to a couple of surprising discoveries, such as Orlando smoking a hookah! As for invisible pyjamas…
Brilliantly, for a children’s author, Kathleen Hale wasn’t afraid to include some of the racier elements of her own dazzling social life in the adventures of the ginger tom. Our hero is drugged and kidnapped, discovers that wine ‘made him very cheerful,’ and generally lives the life of a big fat ginger bon viveur.
Looking at Hale’s rough drawings, you can see a fluid, almost oriental flavour to her work. No one drew cats like she did. And I’m sorry, but this one below is so wonderfully politically incorrect that you have to laugh. Loudly! It’s this knowing humour that I now love after it sailed over my head as a child.
Evil Uncle Truffle… Kathleen Hale’s Orlando books can be found on Amazon.