James Bowen’s book Bob: No Ordinary Cat is based on A Street Cat Named Bob re-written for children and first published on 14th of February 2013.

This book is author’s own story as he moved from Australia to London and struggled with his life, motivation and addiction until he met a ginger street cat and named him Bob. Although he couldn’t be sure that he will put food on his own table, he did take Bob in and they became a family. This book covers their friendship, problems and unexpected events they have gone through as well as pictures life without money in London. This book also features pictures of James and Bob that are really lovely to see.

I am a cat person and the fact that there was a cat with a scarf of this book, when I saw it in a charity shop, made it a no-brainer that I have to get it and I wasn’t disappointed. Although it might not be a cutey book about a cat and his ways, it was a very fast and interesting read. I started the first chapter on my way home and as soon as I got a moment (after all Christmas cleaning), I finished it!

Living in London or knowing London gives a great insight into Bob and James’ moving and understanding of time spent in transportation and actual places that are full of people and the kind of people there are. And I am quite sure that knowing all that grants a lot more liking to this book.

First part of the book follows the days of James when he has just met Bob and their days of busking around Covent Garden in London. It gives a great insight into how street performers are managed, how much they risk and how much money they actually get for their work. And yes, I do agree that they are working although many would disagree. It is a simple thing – either they do something or they just sit (or sleep) there. I do have a respect for people who are experiencing their darkest days but decide to earn money by dancing or singing even though they are not trained in it – I think it shows the strength of character and the fact that they are not a charity case – they can work and will not give up.

I don’t actually think that it is fair to call street performers and musicians lazy, because it takes dedication to learn the songs or write their own improvisations, it takes patience to perfect it and sturdiness to sit in wind and rain while others sit in an office. We are not calling Rihanna lazy just because she sings, right? Why would we do that to a street artist, especially because most of them don’t really have much of a choice?

And I also used to think that, if I couldn’t give at least a pound to a performer, I might as well not bother, but now I see that I’ve been wrong. Of course they will appreciate paper over coins, but put pee by pee and you get a quid, right?

I was really amazed by how much the busker life of Bob and James opened to me and as well as their friendship – they got thorough bad and good and sure it might seem that James held on to Bob for the financial reasons, but the care and love he shows is something that cannot be faked and even if it would have been, so what? They both would have a friend, roof and a meal. I really did feel for James a lot, because I know what does it mean to love a cat unconditionally.

On the second part of the book they move to selling the Big Issue, I honestly had no real understanding of what it is (except for fat ladies shouting ‘The Biiiig Iisuuuuuue’ and having a hidden Wholefoods bag of organic juices behind their chair) and this showed me what The Big Issue is actually about and it sounds like a great prospect, except of course the concurrence that is described in the book and the general people’s attitude to it.

I think that the book has a great promise to open people up and help the ones who are in need. It is sad that most of the passers by don’t actually have that much money themselves and honestly – those are the people who would understand the struggling ones the best. I have always felt awkward when I offer food to a person on a street (sometimes, if I have a sandwich in my bag and I see someone working or begging on the street, I tend to offer it) – feeling that they only value money. And my lunch that I give them would end up in a bin, but this book reassures me that the street people need anything to survive.

This book leaves a lot to think about and has made me even more sure that the moment I will be able to afford a cat, I will get one. It is a cat book so most likely people who like cats will love it, as well as those who do care about people on the streets and want to see their point of view. It received four stars on my goodreads page and made me sure to knit some scarfs for my future cat.

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