The Enid Blyton Society
The Runaway Kitten
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Book Details...

First edition: 1945
Publisher: Brockhampton Press
Illustrator: Eileen A. Soper
Category: Brockhampton Picture Books
Genre: Fantasy
Type: Short Story Series Books

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Artwork
Review by Terry Gustafson

I can't see a genuine Blyton Follower rejecting any book containing Eileen Soper pictures and the following is yet another of those smallish, thinnish, Brockhampton volumes, round about the thirty page mark, that contain a mixture of colour and monochrome pictures.
Tibby the cat has five kittens and her little mistress (Betty) is delighted when she spots them in the basket. Tibby's also delighted with them at least that's what Betty interprets from her "Meeow!" The little girl wants to keep them all but her mother nixes the idea although they won't disappear right away, so Betty's glad about that.

The kittens are well looked after by Tibby because she's a very responsible mother and after twelve days their eyes are beginning to open so it's now about time to name them. Their colour is the main stimulus because black is predominant but one has a white nose and another has four white paws. The third has a white vest, and the fourth, a white tummy. The last is black all over except for six white hairs in its tail.

Mummy calls the first kitten Blackie. Not very original but it's a popular name for a cat provided the creature is reasonably black. Betty names one Sooty and the white-vested kitten becomes Nigger. The fourth is to be known as Cinders but they can't think of a suitable name for the fifth that's the kitten with the white hairs in its tail. It doesn't really matter though because the new owner can sort that out.

For the next few weeks the kittens enjoy life and are so boisterous and mischievous that Tibby becomes quite cross when they insist on playing with her tail. Eventually the time arrives for the kittens to depart Tibby has obviously told them that kittens get adopted and each of them wonders what their new home will be like.

Blackie's the first to disappear and he now belongs to a little girl. A farmer, who wants a cat to hunt for rats and mice on his farm, arrives to take Sooty and an elderly lady bags Nigger. Nigger's rather fat and lazy so Tibby thinks he'd be an ideal choice because the new owner wants a cat to sit on her lap elderly ladies often like company when they're knitting or just relaxing in a rocking chair and listening to the radio. Cinders ends up as a school pet after the local teacher collects her so that's four down and one to go. Betty (naturally) asks if they can keep the "Kitten-Without-A-Name," but Mummy (naturally) says. "No!" Curiously, no one seems to want him and Tibby reckons it might be due to his looks. He hasn't a white nose like Blackie or socks like Sooty just a few pale hairs in his tail and, furthermore, Tibby informs us,

"We've used up all the names for black kittens."

Nothing left to call him, and no new home in the offing! When the cat from across the road calls by, the kitten-with-no-name can't introduce himself properly and the visitor who has got a name is a little scornful, as cats often are, and even has the temerity to suggest that Betty might end up putting him in the dustbin if he can't find digs! This could be described as the catalyst for what happens next

"I shall have to run away."

He does. Down the garden path and out into the road where there are rather frightening animals that dash up and down saying, "Honk-honk." It's not long before the kitten has to jump up onto a wall because a small dog runs up and threatens to eat him. The animal is quite prepared to wait there all day but luckily another of his ilk happens to walk by and tell the bully to leave the kitten alone or else he might be eaten up himself. The newcomer is big so the smaller dog, deciding that discretion is the better part of valour, flees ... and yes, he probably has fleas as in fleas!

After thanking the big dog, the kitten also flees.

He squeezes through a hedge and enters a field where some hens are walking about and they think it'd be fun to peck the white hairs out of his tail. They rush at him and, once again, it's fleeing time. Running into a farm-yard the harassed kitty encounters a pig who goes "Ooomph, oomph!" at him and enquires as to his name. It seems you have to have a name to survive in this world, but the kitten states his case and then asks if the pig knows of a home that would take him in. Pointing to a cottage over the way, the porker suggests he try there. Well, the kitten is very thankful but when he races over and scratches at the door it's opened by a fine example of the nastier Enid Blyton girls who star in such tales as "Bad Tempered Bessie" or "The Two Rough Children." The kitten, who's looking forward to obtaining a kind mistress, receives a shock the girl pulls his tail and when he tries to run away, she yells,

"I've got you!"

This sounds dangerous but the kitten at last manages to wriggle free and put several miles between him and his tormentor. He ends up in a big town where there's a market and not knowing what happens in such places, he asks a lamb who's enclosed in a pen. The runaway learns that animals are bought and sold in such places so he climbs up onto one of the stalls in the hope that somebody will purchase him and supply accommodation. Unfortunately, it still seems to be the poor kitten's unlucky day because a boy comes up with a bag of sweets. He finishes eating them, blows the bag up, and ... yes, he pops it right in the kitten's ear!

"Oh! Oh! I'm shot!"

He isn't of course, however one can imagine the effect of such an action. The kitten makes off and ends up by a pond where some ducks are swimming around. As it's rather hot, he asks them if he can swim alongside and they're only too happy in a wink/nudge sort of way to urge him on. The kitten, thinking he'll float just like the ducks, receives another fright when he jumps in and sinks like a stone. Is that the end of him? There's a picture of the little moggy underwater with the ducks sticking their heads in to watch the action, and there are also some fish and even a frog swimming around as frogs and fish can but not kittens.

"Help me, help me! Oooble, ooble!" The oobling ceases fortunately when the ducks realize he's drowning and dive down to rescue him. They drag the kitten up to the surface and deposit the poor creature back on terra ferma. What a relief it is to feel his paws on land again but now the kitten is cold, wet, and hungry although at least he's alive. One of the ducks points to a kennel and says he could cuddle up inside there amongst the straw. What a good idea, and there's even a bonus ... outside is a bowl with a bone in it and some biscuit covered with gravy. The kitten runs over and eats most of the food (not the bone of course) and then makes himself comfortable inside the kennel. Soon he's soon fast asleep and almost hidden in the straw.

Kennels usually belong to some animal and this particular one belongs to Benny, a collie dog. He arrives home hungry for his dinner after rounding up sheep for the farmer and is rather angry to find that someone's purloined most of his meal. He crunches up the bone and after a drink, gets into his kennel for a well-deserved nap, but when he flops down, the kitten receives yet another shock and has to drag himself out from under the dog's furry body. Benny solves the mystery of where his food went and is rather stern about it.

"What's your name?"

The kitten gives the usual reply and is told to go home but that's a rather hopeless order to impart in the circumstances so, once more, the usual action is taken run, run, run! Eventually, he ends up in some woods where a strange sound can be heard from somewhere amongst the trees. Looking round, he spies a little girl kneeling on the ground beside a puddle that exists because she's crying bitterly and has to squeeze out her wet hanky every now and again. The kitten runs up and asks why she's sad and the girl tells him she's lonely. Her mother is out at work all day and because she has no brothers or sisters to keep her company, the house is empty and often she's quite frightened being there all by herself. The kitten rubs his head against the girl's hand and asks if she has a name.

Of course she does ... it's Sally-Ann. The runaway tells Sally-Ann about his search for a home and a name and suggests that perhaps he's ugly because no one seems to want him, but the girl replies,

"You're not ugly, you're a darling."

Now, if that isn't the prelude to an admirable conclusion, then what could be?
All the pictures are excellent (naturally) and there's a particularly fetching one where Sally-Ann is crouching under a tree with the kitten on her knee.

Like others of its kind, this book has a double-spread illustration in the centre.

Tibby's general knowledge is a tad limited because I'm sure there'd be plenty of names to call a black kitten.

Bad Tempered Bessie was a story in Enid Blyton's "Tales after Supper."

The Two Rough Children featured in "A Book of Naughty Children."

The first "ooble" has three "o's" and the second has only two but seeing the word's not in the dictionary the true spelling is a mystery. Having said that, one could not say with all sincerity that "ooble" is completely lacking on this vast planet.

Sally-Ann is lonely no more and neither is Whiskers/Patter/Silky - all excellent name suggestions by her new mistress, and the kitten's choice was Patter.

Some Find-Outer fans are sure to recall The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat when reading about pale coloured hairs in Patter's tail. Speaking of the Find-Outers, a word not unlike "ooble" can be found in The Mystery of the Vanished Prince - "Oogleby-oogleby-oogleby!" said Sid, valiantly, going red in the face.

Poor Betty. Let's hope she didn't fret too much over the loss of a little black kitten.