Every animal lover is likely to be familiar with the “real-life animal stories” genre that has been sweeping bookstores for the better part of ten years. From “Marley and Me” to “Animal Friends,” books that tell the true stories of incredible animals and the people who love them have become a popular category in the book market for both adults and children. Generally, animal stories are appropriate for all ages but, sometimes, the stories need to be altered for small children. This is certainly the case with “My Name Is Bob,” an enchanting book for children aged 4-7 that is based on the bestselling 2012 novel titled “A Street Cat Named Bob.”
“A Street Cat Named Bob” tells the story of the relationship between James Bowen, a street musician who was struggling with drug addiction and poverty, and Bob, a street cat that entered his life. After adopting Bob, James started taking the cat with him while he played music on the streets of London. The cat attracted a lot of attention which resulted in James becoming one of the more popular street musicians. James vowed to improve his life for the sake of his pet. He got off drugs, found permanent housing and even managed to attract the attention of a publisher who helped him tell the story of his life with Bob which ended in a best-selling book. Talks about a movie based on the story are currently underway.
Although “A Street Cat Named Bob” is a remarkable book for adults and older children, its details of drug addiction and homelessness are not suitable for younger audiences. Hence, book publisher Barron’s Educational Series has recently released a picture book titled “My Name Is Bob.” Written by James Bowen and co-written by Garry Jenkins, this wonderful book explores the story of James and Bob through the point of view of the cat himself.
Although no one will ever know Bob’s true beginnings, this book imagines what life was probably like for the orange tabby before he met James. The book considers what Bob’s life might have been like first as the beloved companion to an older woman and then as a homeless stray who had to deal with hardships such as cold weather, little food and predators. Expertly illustrated by Gerald Kelley, the pictures in the book truly bring the story to life.
Obviously, the book contains some sad elements since it depicts what life is like for many stray animals. Topics like hunger and feeling cold are mentioned as is the loneliness of being homeless and isolated. There is also one scene in the middle of the book that many small children might find frightening; it depicts the glowing eyes of a creature (most likely a fox) that bites Bob. However, right after this scary page Bob meets James who mends the wound on his foot, adopts him, and takes him out busking (playing music) on the streets of London with him. This very happy ending, and the colorful artwork throughout the book, make it a delight to read despite the serious subject matter.
There are also several small details that I like about this book. For starters, photos of the real life James and Bob are included in the back pages of the book. On the back cover there are four facts about Bob printed in the middle of cute illustrated paw prints and yet another photo of Bob and James together. This sort of attention to detail is impressive and it certainly adds to the overall quality of the book.
“My Name Is Bob” is an absolutely delightful and age-appropriate book that children and adults alike are sure to enjoy. It is priced at $16.99 but it is a story that will remain in one’s collection for many years to come. Moreover, Bob and James donate a portion of their proceeds to both animal charities and funds to help the homeless which are two honorable and worthwhile causes.
I give “My name Is Bob” 5/5 stars and highly recommend it to anyone who loves animals and uplifting stories of love and friendship.