Book Review: Seafurrers: The Ships' Cats Who Lapped and Mapped the World by Philipa Sandall, Ad Long

Seafurrers: The Ships' Cats Who Lapped and Mapped the World, written by Philipa Sandall and illustrated by Ad Long, explores the history of the cats that explored the world alongside seafarring souls over the years. People remember the bold seafarers of yore, from Magellan to Shackleton, for their extraordinary exploits: new lands discovered, storms weathered, and battles won. But somehow history has neglected the stalwart, hardworking species who made it all possible, the noble cat! Here readers can learn the stories of sea cats such as Trim (who circumnavigated Australia), Tom (the sole feline survivor of the sinking of the USS Maine), celebrity cat Simon (a veteran of the Yangtze Incident), and other furry heroes. There are thirty eight stories of cats that proved to indispensable at sea—both as pest controllers and as beloved mascots, all told from the voice of Bart- a cat eager to explain the missing histories of seafaring felines. The book is filled with nautical trivia, rare photographs, and whimsical illustrations, this deft genealogy of human–feline friendship will stir your regard for the incomparable cat.

Seafurrers: The Ships' Cats Who Lapped and Mapped the World is less about the individual cats and the sailors that befriended and made use of them, it is more about the benefits and uses of cats on ships and in the world in general. The information about the benefits of cats for pest control and the calculations of just how useful they were. I think I was expecting more stories than science and math, but that is on me rather than the author. The information given is well presented and the illustrations and photographs added to the narrative. I will admit to being bored with some of the facts, and doing a little skimming. My biggest issue was the fact that the author cited Wikipedia. I am trying to teach research to school children, and how to verify sources. Wikipedia does not count, but can be a good starting point as long as you follow it to reputable primary sources. It is not in itself such a source, and that an author would use it as one made me less than happy. 

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