The Best Cat, the Est Cat
State Library of NSW, 2021
32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.95
Situated n the heart of Sydney on the corner of Macquarie Street and Shakespeare Place since 1826, the State Library of NSW is the oldest library in Australia. And among its bigg-est, small-est, and strang-est items is a secret cat with magical powers that make it and its followers invisible. And so young readers are taken on a special journey around the library -to the reading room which is the booki-est place; to the art gallery where ghosts might come alive; to the stacks, seven stories below street level, where there are stories, poems and pictures from near and far as well all sorts of curios telling the story of this country; to all parts of the library revealing its treasures both visible and not. The cat introduces them to the biggest, the smallest, the strangest, the rarest and the gluggiest objects, shows them secret places and spaces and ontroduces them to some of the workers.
Using clever rhyme and superlative language and illustrations which are a blend of collage, digital artwork and sketching, the cat explores all the corners of this institution finally revealing itself to be none other than Trim, the cat that helped Matthew Flinders put Australia on the map. And all the items that are featured in the story are given their own brief explanation in the final pages not only encouraging demonstrating the broad spectrum of items on offer but encouraging further exploration.
Any NSW resident who has a public library card can access the State Library’s collections and so introducing young readers to all that is on offer opens up one of the finest collections of books (end to end, they would stretch 140km), letters, journals, paintings, photographs, maps and objects that they can access for free to assist with whatever investigation they are undertaking.
The Best Cat even has its own web presence with teachers’ notes and a competition offering the opportunity to win a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Library with author Libby Hathorn and illustrator Rosie Handley.
This is the Library’s first foray into publishing children’s books and it has set an extremely high bar.