I went time travelling with cats at the Edinburgh International Book festival. The theme of Kimberlie Hamilton’s colourful new children’s book is ‘A History of the World According to Cats.’
The mostly young audience queued enthusiastically, some donning furry cat ears, to hear a tail of how the world’s felines have played a key role in shaping history, as told in the voice of a cat.
Kimberlie, a non-fiction writer of children’s books, took the audience on a time travelling adventure armed with a flying carpet, a quarter hour glass and a time travel spinner. It was our job in the audience to create a time travelling energy vortex by periodically standing and spinning round five times to travel to another era important in cat history in history, or a different part of the world where cats have made their furmidable paw mark.
‘If you’ve read a book you’ve travelled through time and travelled around the world,’ Kimberlie told us.
She continued to relay a range of interesting cat facts: contrary to popular belief the Egyptians were not the first people to domesticate felines as previously thought when pictures were found in the purramids. A cat’s body was found buried in the 9,500 year old grave of a man of high status in Cyprus. Cats had been living with people four thousand years earlier than the Egyptions.
After this revelation we all duly twirled our way through history and time for the rest of the hour taking in Ancient Greece and Rome, the Victorians and the Vikings, who despite their bad rap, loved cats and carried them in their longships, thereby keeping them mouse free.
In fact, vermin have also played a major role in the history of the world, leading to cats being employed as mousers on ships to Japan and other countries; their jobs as rodent catchers led to them being considered good luck mascots on board.
Cat paw prints have also been found walking across hand illustrated medieval manuscripts (oops)and there are small images of cats in the Book of Kells, a famous illustrated book detailing the daily life of medieval monks.
A French cat even became the first ‘astrocat’ in 1963, spending nearly 15 minutes in space before parachuting to earth in her capsule!
Kimberlie’s book, written from the point of view of a cat will have great appeal to young readers, full of interesting facts about cats and why they have a special place in human hearts, leading them now being number one pet in the world. It is beautifully illustrated by Jocelyn Kao, an illustrator from Taiwan.
Dizzy from all the twirling, I sat down and asked a young audience member next to me, Alex aged six, what his favourite part of the event was.
‘The story about the cat in space is my favourite story as I really like space.’
Move over Doctor Who!
Image of Kimberlie Hamilton, courtesy of EIBF