My Cat Called Red by Jane Lightbourne

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My Cat Called Red by Jane Lightbourne

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Category: Emerging Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A cat with a magic purr. A boy lost in grief. Can grandfather bring them together? A sweet, engaging story.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 156 Date: March 2021
Publisher: Nevada Street Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781838216818

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Robin has red hair. He hates it, and the freckles that go along with it. He's been bullied and mocked at school because of it. Ginger Minger! Carrots! Kids are mean.

But red hair is not Robin's only misery in life. He's already lost his dad to a mountaineering accident when his mum gets ill and is taken into hospital. She doesn't come home again. After miserable spells living with his Aunt Caroline and then his Aunt Emily, Robin's grandfather comes all the way from Africa to look after him. Robin, still missing his mum, is rude and sulky towards his grandfather who remains remarkably unperturbed because he can see the great ball of sadness that Robin carries around with him..

Then, one day, a cat turns up on the doorstep. It's a magnificent creature with deep, red fur. Robin isn't keen on cats - they're aloof and standoffish - and he pulls its tail. Grandfather gives him such a look that shame creeps over Robin so he listens when his grandfather begins to relate the story of this bedraggled but beautiful cat.

For Red has a special talent. The sound of his purr can soothe away all the troubles someone has. It can literally turn their lives around. It's a magic purr. But where is it? As grandfather tells Red's story, and the trials he's had as he searches for a forever home, it becomes apparent that the magic purr is lost. 

Can Red get his purr back? Can Robin lose that ball of grief and sadness? Read this lovely little story to find out.

I truly enjoyed My Cat Called Red. It's a tale of grief and loss on the part of both Red and Robin. But it's also a tale of hope and perseverance and of putting one foot in front of the other with trust in a better future. Red makes friends he can trust on his travels just as Robin learns that he can trust his grandfather to help him and understand him. Children make precious and loving connections not only with their grandparents but also with beloved pets and this story brings both to the fore in a genuinely engaging way.

Lightbourne's text is age appropriate and includes some great vocabulary words, so is perfect both for sharing and for newly confident readers to read alone.  Catherine Stewart's gentle, evocative illustrations provide occasional, kindly punctuations. Children who enjoy stories about animals and those with sympathetic messaging about times of trouble, will love My Cat Called Red and return to it again and again.


Another cat story we think everyone should read is Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech - in free verse, it's a lovely introduction to poetry for any small child.

You can read more about Jane Lightbourne here.

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Buy My Cat Called Red by Jane Lightbourne at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy My Cat Called Red by Jane Lightbourne at


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