GREENAWAY MEDAL WINNER – 1961
Philippa Pearce, author
Antony Maitland, illustrator
London: Constable and Co., 1961
Ages: 4 +
Interests: cats, flying, balloons, London, ocean, boats
Also by this author: Tom’s Midnight Garden
Balloon-seller Mrs. Cockle lives at top of a very tall house in London with her cat Peter. One day Peter runs away, cranky over the general lack of fish at home. Mrs. Cockle is very sad, can’t eat, can’t sleep. She loses weight, until one windy day she is swept up into the air with her balloons.
She was so taken by surprise that, for the first few feet upwards, she did not think of calling for help; and after that she felt, as she said later, that she hardly wished to call attention to her position.
Literally walking on clouds, Mrs. Cockle forgets all her troubles.
She was a gay old woman at heart, and she had the commonsense to realize that she was unlikely ever to have such an experience as this again.
She floats all the way to the sea, which she has never seen before. She finally lands right beside a fisherman in a boat… with her missing cat Peter at the bow! The fickle feline doesn’t let on at first that he even knows her. Mrs. Cockle likes it so well by the sea that she stays, selling her balloons on the pier and visiting the fisherman to clean house for him and to visit Peter.
Mrs. Cockle never told that Peter had once lived with her in London and then left her: she would not have had people think that Peter was light in his affections. She knew in her heart that, after fresh fish for his tea, Peter Cockle valued her company more than anything else in the world.
A beautifully written tale, with a poetic depiction of Mrs. Cockle’s flight that should stay with readers for a good long while. The understatement throughout is really charming.
A lovely gentle story about the true nature of cats and humans… and the many faces of love.