Review – A Very Special Cat

James Bowen was living hand to mouth in London, busking on the streets to earn a bit of money, when one day he stumbled upon a rather dishevelled ginger cat. He made sure the cat had no owner and then took him in and gave him a name: Bob.
From then on the two were practically inseparable. They soon established a Routine, James carrying him along when playing his guitar on the streets and Bob becoming well known to locals and foreigners. Other then attracting the attention of by-passers, Bob also helped James to get his life back on track.

You can take the cat off the street, but you can’t take the street out of the cat.
– p. 186

I’m a cat person: I’ve always preferred them to dogs and I think they are way cuter than the canine version of pets. This book and I did actually crossed paths a few times but I never got round to buying it. My aunt changed that and gave it to me for my birthday.
I nearly inhaled it: it’s a sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes funny and always hopeful story with a sympathetic human and a lovable cat as protagonists.
Especially the cat basically sneaked itself into my heart and I loved to read about all the little adventures Bob and James had together.
Even though the book is easy to read and not very long it has got a few important messages.

First and foremost: life on the streets is hard (just in case you weren’t aware). James describes his work as a busker (basically a street musician) and the dismissive reaction he got from a majority of by-passers before Bob joined him.
According to James Bob changed a lot of things in his life, mostly people’s attitude towards him. Bob made peolpe stop to talk with James – mostly about Bob – and he made James look nicer. Apparently it got easier to walk up to James and maybe he wasn’t just a nuisance anymore but an actual human being.

People don’t want to listen. […] Having Bob there gave me a chance to interact with people.
– p. 91

Apart from other’s people opinion Bob also changed James‘ attitude towards his own life. In the book James does not only write about his life with Bob but also about his life before Bob, especially how he came to live on the streets of London. That story includes about everything one can think about: drugs, homelessness, minor crimes, which all adds up to kind of a vicious circle.
It was interesting to read about James‘ life but also a bit unsettling for me. I always thought that teenagers or young adults who end up on the streets come from a bad and/or socially disadvantaged background. But that’s not the case with James: especially his mom earns a lot of Money and can probably be described as wealthy. This still doesn’t save her son from sliding into drug abuse and a rather unhappy life.

But with Bob he feels he has a responsibility to get his life back on track and he starts fairly soon with that. He got in touch again with his parents, even visited his mother in Australia, got a job at a London street magazine (comparable to Trott-war in Stuttgart) and decreased his intake of drugs.
This part of the story was really inspirational and ultimately shows what a huge impact Bob had. For James the arrival of Bob was a little miracle and it’s not about the fact that he earned more money because of him. It’s about the fact that Bob is the reason for James to – above all – live a better life but also to be viewed as a valuable human being and not a beggar by other people.

Living on the streets of London strips away your dignity, your identity – your everything, really. Worst of all, it strips away people’s opinion of you.
– p. 33

What I found most impressive really was James‘ fight to get away from drugs. I’m happy to say that I have no drug habit at all (if you don’t count books, at least 😉 ) and I never really understood why it’s so hard to get away from it again. James describes his way out in a way that made me understand, even though I never went through that experience (and hopefully never have to).

I can only recommend this book, especially to all the cat lovers among you. Bob is indeed a very special cat and it’s been a lot of fun to read about him. But the book is also inspirational regarding the way Bob changes James life.

Thanks to [Bob] I’d rediscovered the good side of human nature. I had begun to place my trust – and faith – in people again.
– p. 186

About James Bowen:
Bowen, born 1979 in Surrey, GB, moved to Australia with his mother after his parents‘ divorce, but later returned to Great Britain to live with his half-sister. The situation did not work out though and he became homeless. Bowen started to take heroin during that period, later worked as a busker and enrolled in a methadone program to get away from heroin.
He met Bob in 2007 and the two of them soon became famous because of people uploading videos of them onto YouTube and later attracted the Attention of the Islington Gazette. His first book, A Street Cat Named Bob, was written together with Garry Jenkins and published in 2012. Seven more books about Bob were written over time and there is a film adaption about the first one now.
Source: Wikipedia

The Bob-series:

  1. A Street Cat Named Bob
  2. The World According to Bob
  3. Bob: No Ordinary Cat (A Street Cat Named Bob rewritten for children)
  4. Where In The World Is Bob? (picture book)
  5. My Name Is Bob (picture book for young children)
  6. For the Love of Bob (sequel to Bob: No Ordinary Cat)
  7. A Gift From Bob (short story)
  8. Bob to the Rescue (picture book for young children)

More opinions about the book:

  • The Concious Cat („I wasn’t prepared for just how much I loved it“; includes the book trailer)
  • The Book Coop („It’s a sweet and heart warming book about friendship between human and animal“; a little video of Bob and James is included)
  • Leselurch (5/5 Lurche; „ein herzerwärmendes Buch über zweite Chancen, das sich den Bestseller-Status absolut verdient hat“)

Image source cover: Hodder
Image source cat-silhouette: Pinterest
Image source butterfly-silhouette: Freepik
Image source James Bowen & Bob: Islington Gazette

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