Oscar the Guardian Cat ISBN: 9781857144642
Published by Ragged Bears, 2015
Oscar is a very special cat. He is the Guardian cat for Hope House, where 'seventy-three Grandmas and Grandpas live'. He is always busy and likes to visit each room in the morning, and he is always in the dining room where the elderly people sometimes drop their food! He does have to be careful of head nurse Dolores, though; she can be very fierce when he is found there! Besides prowling the gardens and sleeping in the flower beds, he has another and very important job to do. Some of the people at Hope House are suffering from dementia, and one day during a thunderstorm, one of the residents, Mr Weakhead (Oscar tells the story himself and names the people by their personalities) disappears. It is Oscar who finds him in the basement clutching a fire extinguisher and believing that he and his little brother Paul are in the midst of a bombing raid. Leading him back upstairs, Oscar sees to it that he is put to bed, still holding the fire extinguisher. But even this is not Oscar's greatest job. When 'Mewt' comes to Hope House, it is only Oscar who sees him or her and knows that the time has come for one of the grandmas or grandpas to leave. Mewt can be either male or female and will look different each time, and it is Oscar's job to leap onto the bed and cuddle up to the person dying, knowing that Mewt will only come when that person's time has arrived. There is nothing sad about Mewt's appearance in Oscar's eyes; death is natural and a good thing, but he knows that the person needs a cat's reassuring purr and presence in order to feel safe when the time comes. Nurse Dolores knows it too, and when she sees Oscar curled up on the bed of one of the residents, she knows to call the family. We see the very moving journey that Oscar and Mr Weakhead make when his own particular Mewt appears - a lovely blond girl whose picture is on the table in Mr Weakhead's room. When they have left together, Oscar stays until the family arrive, and then, his job done, he leaves them to their grief. This is a beautiful book in every way. The illustrations in chalky colours are soft and subdued but full of life and reality. There are tiny bits of humour in Oscar's text, and his matter-of-fact view of life and death is refreshing and rather lovely. This is a book that parents as well as children will carry much away from, and in the process, they will learn that one day their own Mewt will arrive, and that this is no cause for fear. Based on a true story of a cat in a nursing home, this picture book is simply outstanding.