Dick Whittington and His Cat
Reviewed: October 14, 2007
By: retold by Margaret Hodges / illustrated by Mlisande Potter
Publisher: Holiday House
32 pages, $20.95
The story of the poor boy who grew up to become the Lord Mayor of London is well known. Young Dick Whittington leaves a life of rural poverty and is befriended by a rich man in the city, becoming a kitchen boy in the Fitzwarren household. His living conditions are still pretty grim, and he acquires a cat to drive away the mice and rats that interrupt his sleep.
His master, a good man, offers all his household the opportunity to send something off for trade on his most recent international venture, and Dick scores big when his Tabby is a serious hit with the rodent plagued royal family of Barbary.
Dick doesn’t know he’s rich though, and under the incessant torment of the household’s cook, who hates him, he determines to run away to the country. He seems to hear messages in the city’s clock tower bells. First they say to run away, but from four miles out of the city he hears a different message, the familiar words “Turn again, Whittington, Lord Mayor of London.”
He goes back, his master’s ship comes in, and he finds himself a rich young man, heir to all the promises of the bells, and celebrated in London’s history as a good mayor and man of the people.
This book is a good version of the story, well retold by Hodges. I found it especially charming that Potter’s ink and gouache illustrations are modeled Medieval style paintings and drawings, a very appropriate choice for a story set in 14th century England.