Tom, Mrs. Gimble's cat, would love to see the world, but his peg-leg keeps him at home. Mrs. Gimble just wants to be left in peace with a stay-at-home cat that doesn't eat too much. Will their wishes come true?
I love this book. I have a three-legged cat myself who has already given away three of his nine lives and is still full of energy and curiosity, so it is great to see that Margaret Mahy too is able to confirm that you don't necessarily have to have four legs to function! After all, we humans get along fine with just two.
Tom, the hero of the story, has a wooden leg in place of his missing limb. I see him as the sort of cat who is determined to do everything that his four-legged cousins can do.. He wants to travel and see new things, and gets frustrated when he has to stay home and be quiet. As for Cyril, he is no longer lonely and realises just how rewarding it can be when you have a friend to share everything.
Mrs Gimble, Tom's owner, likes things just so and, when people (and animals) do their own thing, it upsets her world. Eventually she is happy because she sees exactly what she wants to see, and Tom is happy because he gets his wish. And in the nature of all good stories, everyone lives happily ever after.
This story holds a delightful message for children who may feel that there are things they cannot do because they are held back for various reasons. It might be a physical problem that gets in the way, or it might be the circumstances they are in through no fault of their own. Tom the three-legged cat proves that you can do anything if you want it hard enough, and that there is always a way round a difficulty.
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"Character - the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life - is the source from which self respect springs."
Joan Didion (1934 - ), 'Slouching Towards Bethlehem'