The author, best-known for her picture books and luminous illustrations about river creatures Daisy the duck and Ebb and Flow, shows herself to be equally at ease with words and small black-and-white drawings in this story about growing up.
New owners take the little kitten away from a horrible family and from the warmth of Mummy Cat. They call him Doris and introduce him to a completely new life on board a dilapidated old fishing boat awaiting repair. He joins the other pets on board – the two dogs John and Madge, one a gentle giant, the other peevish and yappy, and Freda, a chicken with a huge personality. Intimidated, Doris struggles to find acceptance among them, only gradually finding his place. But when he takes to exploring the boatyard, he discovers new terrors in the shape of shipyard bullies Jasper the cat and the Queen’s pet dog. Their behaviour has a lasting impact on him and does much to affect life on board ship.
The story describes Doris’ experiences as he grows from kitten to tomcat. He and the other animals speak like humans but their behaviour, acutely observed, is realistic and true to their nature. Though there’s some sadness in the story as he faces ordeals, forges friendships and finds his place in the world, this is, above all, a charming, at times humorous, read.