In essence a celebration of kindness, The Station Cat by Stephen Hogtun is a thing of beauty, exquisite illustrations accompanying the tale of a lonely cat who makes her home at a suburban railway station. Set in a time of steam trains and bowler-hatted city gents, this drab, sooty place exudes a forlorn air. The waiting passengers appear absorbed, sometimes in their ink-stained broadsheets but more often by their own personal troubles. Like the station, they are sad and grey, turning their indifferent faces away from the feline newcomer, unaware of the impact she will have on their lives.
Having arrived as a neglected and traumatised kitten, she waits unsuccessfully for some human tenderness. If only the passengers on Platform One were to glance up, they would notice that she was a most uncommon kind of stray.
‘From her fur came a kaleidoscope of colours that shimmered in changing, dancing light.’
The radiant cat with her coat of many hues sits patiently, finally catching the eye of a lugubrious city gentleman. His collar stands starchily to attention, in sharp contrast to his sagging shoulders. He is a man with a mournful secret and the station cat will be his confidante, listening in quiet companionship to his tale of a life unlived.
And so it begins. Other commuters are drawn to her glowing presence and along with a new role as station mouser, she provides comfort to the lonely and lost. But ‘the saddest person of all’ eludes her. A weeping woman in black, who arrives on the platform each day with an armful of white lilies. Our little cat wonders what her story is and longs to bring light to her darkness.
Hogtun’s gradual introduction of colour brings a gorgeous luminosity to the initially sombre railway scenes, as the station cat dispenses her warmth and empathy to all she meets.
An ideal read for younger readers exploring the value of compassion and sharing feelings.
The Station Cat by Stephen Hogtun is published by DK Children, 48 pages.