The Big Book of Old Tom
Allen & Unwin, 2014
pbk., 460pp., RRP $A19.99
“Angela Throgmorton lived alone and liked it that way. One day, while doing some light dusting, she heard a knock at the door. There, on her front step, was a baby monster. Angela was curious so she carried him in…and brought him up”. And so begins one of the most enduring series that has captivated younger readers since 1992. In a few lines of pen-and-ink, Leigh Hobbs created a most captivating cat, Old Tom, and in this bumper book, five of his most iconic adventures are drawn together. There is the original “Old Tom” (whom the author himself describes as “more like an Australian cattle dog, or blue heeler, perhaps with a touch of Tasmanian devil, than he is a cat”) as well as “Old Tom at the Beach”, “Old Tom Goes to Mars”, “Old Tom’s Guide to Being Good” and “A Friend for Old Tom”.
With a few lines of text on each page and the real story being told through the dramatic movement and emotion of the pictures, this series captivated my reluctant readers right from the start and all these years on, still does. A graphic novel, before the term had been widely adopted, Leigh Hobbs has captured what it is that readers of this age like without going down the toilet-humour path. Here is boldness, determination, courage, resilience and humour all packaged in a cat who changes Angela Throgmorton’s safe, predictable life for ever. Even though Old Tom drives her crazy at times, she loves him.
If your younger readers haven’t met Old Tom yet, then they must. He is one of those literary characters that will be remembered most fondly by parents who will be delighted to see their own children bringing him home in their library bags.