Ghost Cat, by Eve Bunting, is the story of Sailor Boy, a cat who loves his owner so much that he can’t bear to leave her — even after he passes away. Besides, she’s the keeper of the Port Carrick lighthouse, a drafty place that would be much too quiet and lonely if Sailor Boy wasn’t there to liven up the place.
Sailor Boy can make himself visible or invisible at will — a handy talent, since he so loves to tease the occasional lighthouse visitors by doing something ghostly like purring aloud when they can’t see him. Otherwise, he helps his beloved owner, Miss Maggie McCullen, with all the lighthouse duties. He knows these duties so well that he is even able to help Miss Maggie one night when an injury prevents her from lighting the beacon that guides the ships.
Ghost Cat is a clever little book that is about a lot of things: responsibility; resilience; and a love bond that cannot be broken — even in death. Ms. Bunting writes in first person, which gives the tail–make that tale–more of an immediate, in-your-face tone. Readers get to experience Sailor Boy’s loyalty, Miss Maggie’s devotion to the unknown sailors who sail the seas, and the importance of not trying to face this life alone…even if you have to face it with a ghost cat. Of course, adults may have a twinge of panic that Miss Maggie’s life may be what it’s like to become “the neighborhood cat lady” — a fate most adults abhor, but since this isn’t a book for adults, this is not a major concern!
Artist Kevin M. Barry’s illustrations have a Tim Burton-ish flavor that is both sweet and just a tinge spooky. The illustrations, brushed with pale colors, show the solitary lighthouse on the hill, the often-rolling waves, the hush of the midnight sky, and the quiet, resolved Miss Maggie with her ghost cat perched close beside her.
Use this book as a discussion-starter about early lighthouses, early occupations, living alone…and ghosts, if you believe in that sort of thing.