The Adventures of Harley and Lucy: The Marshland Rescue / The Cat and the Captain: Trim the Cat & Matthew Flinders

Here are two recent fiction books from Little Steps Publishing kindly sent for review

The Adventures of Harley and Lucy: The Marshland Rescue
Maria Atlan, illustrated by Adriana Santos

We meet Harley on his first day as a retired military service dog, about to embark on a new life with the Laceys. He knows that he’s going to miss his long-time companion Sergeant Garcia. However, Mamie and Greg Lacey appear amicable enough, but one thing Harley hasn’t anticipated is the presence in his new home of tiny moggy, Lucy. It seems Harley might need recourse to Sergeant Garcia’s advice: ”Be strong, be true, be brave.”

Soon comes news of a plan to pull down the historical Ashley Place, wherein live Lucy’s feline aunts, and replace it with a huge modern development. This is of great concern not only to the kitten but also to the Laceys, as it threatens both the marshland environment with its wealth of wildlife and the safety of their own homes. Despite a successful meeting addressed by Mamie and a vote to put paid to the planned project, they learn that the vote was a formality and the enterprise will go ahead after all. Or will it? If they combine their skills, perhaps an alliance between Lucy and Harley can help matters. But time is running out.

The author’s passion for conserving the environment is evident in her storytelling and readers are swept along with Harley, Lucy and the Laceys in their bid to halt a potentially catastrophic development. Occasional black and white illustrations by Adriana Santos inject some gentle humour into the tale.

The Cat and the Captain: Trim the Cat & Matthew Flinders
Ruth Taylor

Having been the subject of a picture book, Trim the cat now features in a novel for older readers. Born aboard, HMS Reliance, a sailing ship bound for Botany Bay, the kitten, after falling overboard while the ship’s anchored, is adopted by Matthew Flinders and accompanies him on all subsequent expeditions.

The two brave a leaking ship, stormy seas, illness and other disasters till by the time Matthew is twenty-nine, he’s in a very bad way and so is Trim. The man starts to despair of ever accomplishing his goal of mapping the western coast of Australia, but despite many lives being lost, and a shipwreck, his determination never leaves him.

Then one fateful day having reached Mauritius, Matthew is accused of being a spy by the Île de France (Mauritius) officials and put into prison. It’s while in captivity that he learns of Trim’s disappearance, and he never sees his faithful cat again.

Matthew doesn’t get finally back to England and his wife, Ann, until he is thirty- seven, having been parted from her for nine years; and sadly they only have three years together before his death.

This gripping piece of history is retold by the author Ruth Taylor who, while researching the role of ships’ cats in pest control at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, came upon Matthew’s tribute to his beloved Trim and decided to tell the story for children. With illustrations by David Parkins, this is an accessible and fascinating story for upper primary/lower secondary school readers.

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