Oscar the Guardian Cat
Chiara Valentina Segré and Paolo Domeniconi
This is a story of a cat, a very special one and it’s based on the true story of Oscar the cat that lives in a Rhode Island care home. Here in this lovely book, Oscar takes the role of narrator and he describes how he carries out his many, important guardian duties visiting each and every one of the home’s residents every morning; and after his afternoon nap, he spends the evenings, keeping watch in the dining room. Oscar introduces several of the home’s residents – ‘grandparents’ Oscar calls them assigning them names according to the traits he sees in them: there’s the silent Lady Lisa and Mr Weakhead, ‘a real chatterbox’ and some of the staff – there’s the slightly scary but kind hearted head nurse, Dolores …
and Doctor Goodhelp.
Oscar has a special ability – a kind of tacit knowing of ‘the right time’ when one of the residents is about to die. Then he jumps up onto the bed purring, comforting and signalling to the staff to contact relatives, letting them know the end is imminent.
The practicalities of death are dealt with by assigning to it a metaphorical presence, Mewt, seen only by Oscar: Mewt takes a different form for each visit. For Mr Weakhead, it is a blonde haired girl …
who looks very like the photograph on the bedside table. Oscar stands guard watching as, hand in hand with Mewt, a smiling Mr Weakhead, rises from the bed, flies out of the window and off towards the setting sun.
Written and illustrated with great sensitivity and the occasional touch of humour, this is a book that will offer comfort to children who have a grandparent close to the end, or has recently died. It is likely to provide a way to talk about a particular loss as well as death in general. The softly textured illustrations have both a luminescence and a three dimensional quality, the combination of which makes them powerfully affecting.