Orlando Goes to the Moon
For those who haven't previously had the opportunity to read any 'Orlando – The Marmalade Cat' stories (like me before embarking on writing this article), it shouldn't dissuade you from starting with any title in this series.
In 'Orlando Goes to the Moon', the beginning of the book gives you all the introduction you need to become acquainted with the characters involved. It tells us that Orlando is 'striped and the colour of marmalade, with eyes of a beautiful gooseberry green'. It also introduces 'his dear wife Grace' who is a 'tabby with a little stub nose like a tiny ripe apricot'. They have 'three kittens – tortoiseshell Pansy, Snow-white Blanche and little coal-black Tinkle'.
Being a rainy summer (and cats hate getting wet, don't you know?), Pansy suggests 'Why don't we go to the Moon?' as 'it never rains there and there aren't any people at all'.
After agreeing to the idea, Orlando orders supplies of a Moon Rocket and Space-suits from Mr. Cattermole, who tells them that they must also 'take a present for the Man in the Moon'.
The usual 'list of things to take' is acquired: 'gloworms', 'hot haddock milk, butterfly net' and of course, 'Grace's sofa', because who would go to the Moon without that!
When the Moon Rocket (named Saucy Catsule – I love the play on words the author uses) and the Space-suits have been inspected and packed, and after some fun and games with the 'Up' and 'Down' buttons, soon they are hurtling their way to the Moon.
One part I found particularly amusing during the trip to the Moon is when all the haddock milk is lost – but Orlando sees 'flying saucers' outside the window and goes to investigate because as every cat knows 'Saucers mean milk!'.
Eventually, the Catsule lands on the Moon but is broken in half – oh dear, how will they get home? However, there appears to be little worry about this, as they meet the Man in the Moon, who invites them for a meal, which of course the family accept.
Throughout the next part of the story, many references and quotes from the famous nursery rhyme 'Hey Diddle Diddle' are used – such as when the Man in the Moon is getting the food ready for their meal – but 'the dish ran away with the spoon'.
Another highlight of the story is of how the man came to be in the Moon, with his dog, dish, spoon and never ending firewood on his back. All those in attendance are enthralled by his story.
Then there is the arrival of the 'Summer Visitors' – the Moon, it seems is a very popular place to go! Deciding it is time to go back to 'Master', the family has to enlist the help of 'Dinah' to try to get home – because, what do you do when your Moon Rocket is broken?? You'll have to read the story to find out!!
'Orlando Goes to the Moon' (published in 1968), is the penultimate title in the series of 19 books written and illustrated by Kathleen Hale. The first story in the series (Orlando the marmalade cat: A Camping Holiday) was published in 1938, with the final title 'Orlando and the Water Cats' being published in 1972.
The Orlando books, having being published over a long period of time, by different publishers, come in different formats. Most familiar to me, from cataloguing at Stella & Roses Books, are the very large format volumes published by Country Life, with beautiful colour pictorial boards, that were originally issued with colour dustwrappers. However, there are also the oblong cardwrap titles and the smaller hardback formats, with colourful covers – like 'Orlando Goes to the Moon' – published without dustwrappers.
Each title displays the beautiful colour lithographed works of Kathleen Hale (many of which she lithographed herself) – along with black and white illustrations that really tell the story how the author/illustrator envisioned them.
Although part of a series of charming stories for children, this book 'Orlando Goes to the Moon', with it's simple text, but amusing 'cat' language and puns, can be enjoyed by adults alike, and is especially recommended for cat lovers everywhere!
Contributed by Joanne Hill
(Published 15th Mar 2017)