Orlando the marmalade cat was the star of an enormously successful series of 18 books, beginning in 1939 and ending in 1972. Author-artist Kathleen Hale, now in her 90s, supervised this reissue of the Orlando books in handsome outsize volumes. What longevity!
At first rereading, the series doesn’t seem to stand up quite as well as its author has. There’s something very slapdash about the concept of Orlando as the head of a family. He’s perfectly catlike, except for the watch he wears on his tail. His wife, on the other hand, wears clothes, and so do the three children — sometimes — and they all live in a neat suburban house with elegant furniture, behaving with complete unpredictability — sometimes acting like cats, at other times like humans.
But Kathleen Hale’s pictures are filled with so much energy and sly humor, and she clearly enjoys her preposterous story so much, that you soon forget the wild inconsistencies and settle down to relishing the mischief.
In this episode, Orlando Keeps a Dog, Orlando’s family advertises for a pet to console their youngest child, Tinkle. An irrepressibly bouncy poodle named Bill answers the ad and insists of taking the job. To everyone’s surprise, after some breathless misadventures, the whole arrangement is found satisfactory. A new generation of children may find pleasure in Hale’s sweetly un-selfconscious silliness, frisky high spirits, and charmingly accomplished color lithographs. A