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Carbonel: The King of the Cats

(Carbonel #1)

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  1,436 ratings  ·  147 reviews
Back in print in the U.S. for the first time in over 30 years.

Rosemary's plan to clean houses during her summer break and surprise her mother with the money hits a snag when an old lady at the market talks her into buying a second-rate broom and a cat she can't even afford to keep. But appearances can be deceiving. Some old ladies are witches, some brooms can fly, and some
Hardcover, 188 pages
Published October 31st 2004 by New York Review Children's Collection (first published 1955)
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Average rating 4.23  · 
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 ·  1,436 ratings  ·  147 reviews

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Bionic Jean
Have you ever loved a book and its characters, been happy when their fortunes are good, and worried on their behalf when things are not going so well, been engrossed in their adventures, and delighted by the lively wit of the author — only to have everything destroyed by a careless, jarring ending? This is such a book.

Carbonel: the King of the Cats is a children’s fantasy book by Barbara Sleigh, which was first published in 1955. It is perhaps most suitable for those between 7 and 11 years of ag
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cat lovers, magic lovers, read alouders to younger children
Recommended to Hilary by: Found at a book sale
4.5 stars. We loved this story of Rosemary, who hopes to buy a broom to help her mother earn money by cleaning over the summer holidays, and accidentally comes away with a witches broom and Carbonel, the King of the Cats. There was some wonderful humour from Carbonel, who's voice we could hear when the broom was held. This was fun for a read aloud, and we enjoyed the relationship between John and Rosemary, who despite being from different backgrounds were really good friends. The end battle/culm ...more
Dec 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: strange things that had happened since
Recommended to Mariel by: silent magic
'Well, don't let them see you. Really, Rosemary, you have no ingenuity.'
A number of rather angry replies came into Rosemary's mind at this, but she remembered Napoleon and Charles the Second and swallowed the retorts that came to her lips.

The king of the cats was stolen from his great inheritance by a vain and greedy witch. Enslaved to her petty treacheries great and small until he is freed at long last by the fulfillment of a prophecy. I loved the simplicity of their magic. The foretold three q
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I remember this from primary school, junior section so I was about 9/10 - the edition above says 2005, but it's close to what I remember - would have been 1980.

It was so good - stuck in my head. Must read.
Jun 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: younger, fantasy
Although I gave this a 4 at the time it should probably be lower, as I just read the sequel without remembering this book or the characters in the least.
Ivonne Rovira
Jun 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This was a favorite book from my childhood, and it's still excellent 40 years later. I just ordered it for my own daughter, who just loves cats. (We have three.) Even though she's 15, she still loved reading Carbonel: The King of Cats. I'm so pleased that it's back in print! Some children's books are so good that you don't have to be young to enjoy them. This is one.
Feb 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
From the 1930s to the 1960s, roughly speaking, there was a golden era of children's literature. Many of the authors were British - E. Nesbit, Arthur Ransome, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Mervyn Peake, and so many more -- and some were American (Madeleine L'engle). Barbara Sleigh belongs to this era, and her Carbonel series is a wonderful trilogy of books about the King of the Cats and his adventures with some British children who through various magical means can understand his language. "Carb ...more
Beth Cato
Apr 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010, cats, in, children-s
Long before Harry Potter, the Carbonel series captured that same British magical whimsy. Carbonel and its sequel were among my favorite books at the library when I was about 9-12. Imagine my delight when this book, originally published in 1955, was re-released... followed by two sequels! I didn't even know it was a trilogy. I completed my set, and now I'm reading through them from the beginning.[return][return]Young Rosemary plans on cleaning houses to make her summer break pass by. However, whe ...more
Jul 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This was a raving good time. I loved all of the characters, and it is consistently funny, well-written, and action packed. I love the way she phrases things, and I also love the way she writes dialog. Every character has a unique voice, and most have a funny way of saying things. I'm so glad this is only the first in a series of 3 novels, because I want to read more about Carbonel, Rosemarie and John.

I realize I can't read all the NYRB Classics, so I've a mind to read all the NYRB Children's boo
Michael Fitzgerald
May 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very nice ordinary magic story, but it seemed a little too long. There was the curious idea of not describing things by saying, "I'm not going to describe this food - just think of the most wonderful meal you can imagine." Quite the opposite of Elizabeth Goudge in The Little White Horse: Collector's Edition where everything gets described in mouthwatering detail. ...more
Apr 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Dated, simple adventure fantasy. No real wisdom, resonance, or poignancy... or humor, for that matter. Everything kinda just falls into place: the children always have just enough pocket change, they never bicker, Carbonel is meant to be leader by right of Birth (which, you know, grates on my American sensibilities just too much), the rich lady is kind, the mother is patient, etc. Ok fine. Let's move along to Nesbit or Eager or Farjeon, all right?
Jazzy Lemon
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english-authors
I remember reading this book when I was 7 or 8. Ah, those lovely days when books were not dumbed-down for children. No wonder we were such good readers. A lovely story, I enjoyed it very much the second-time 'round.
Nov 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another book from the 'discard' pile - but one which has now gone straight back onto my shelves. I never read it as a child but I wish I had - this is a magical book in every sense of the word.

I actually shed a tear right at the end (always the sign of a good read) but mostly the book is gently humorous, as we share the unexpected adventures of Rosemary and John, two ordinary children who find themselves doing extraordinary things. Sometimes things go wrong, sometimes they go right, and Rosemar
Farhana Sufi
I read this book when I was 11, found it in the Long-side public library, Manchester, UK. It was an amazing adventure this one, not just because it starred a little girl and her cat, but because the adventures they had were crazy and fun. I have to read it once more. I always wanted to read the sequels, but never found them, now I'll have to look for the e-books.

Update on 4th read: 25/08/2017

Wow! Finally bought my own copy from thanks to a bookpage in Bangladesh. I am holding this afte
May 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
I loved this book and am happy to hear it's back in print. My current cat goes by the sobriquet "Huckle, King of All the Cats" and I knew it came from a book, but couldn't remember... here it is. :-)

***Re-read 05/2009
Carbonel is just as crochety and (shhhh) adorable as I remembered him being. What a wonderful story for cat people everywhere.
Such a fun, cute story. And of course I'm a sucker for a talking cat.

Review originally posted on Reading Autistically.

Still in the mood for some classic children's fantasy adventure goodness, I picked this one up. This is the story of Rosemary, a young girl who decides to help out her financially struggling mother by secretly offering her services as a cleaner during her summer holidays. Having bought a broom at the market from a strange old woman, who threw in a beautiful black cat in the barg
First published in 1955, it is the story of Rosemary, who lives with her widowed mother in a boarding house. They don't have much money, and Rosemary's mother supplements her pension by taking in sewing. During the summer holidays, while her mother is sewing at the house of the wealthy Mrs Pendlebury Parker, Rosemary decides to set herself up as a cleaner to help out financially. Because she knows she won't be able to take one out of the house, she buys a broom from an untidy looking woman in a ...more
Nov 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Carbonel, a witch's cat with the airs of a prince, is saved from a life of servitude by a young girl. The girl, Rosemary, continues to perform more favors for the cat when she enlists the help of John and the two of them endeavor to free Carbonel from his bonds once and for all.

This is a pleasant and old-fashioned book that I quite enjoyed. The young heroes encounter very few problems in the story, but the nostalgic charm is what really makes the book worth reading. I'm not sure any kids today (
Oct 16, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
Sunday afternoons reading children's books at my mums house are just proper lovely. Today I chose Carbonel about the Prince of Cats and his adventures with Rosemary and John to free him from a binding Silent Magic spell so he can reclaim his throne. I'm miserable at the moment but this charming little story put a smile on my face this sunny Autumn day.
Aug 30, 2012 rated it liked it
B., age 10: I liked it pretty well but I wish the broom could have lived because it was my favorite character. I want to read the other books in the series.

I thought the book was written at a nice pace and featured a good balanced between fantasy and reality. I would have liked it better if Carbonel was a more likable character - but he was really aloof at best and sometimes pretty mean.
Katy Wheatley
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I thought I'd read Carbonel as a child, as we definitely had the books. It turns out that it was my brother who had read it and I, for some reason had decided not to. This is most unlike me as I was a voracious reader as a kid and usually read anything that floated before my eyes. I have now rectified the situation a few decades later than most people. I have to say that waiting did not dull the enjoyment. This is an old fashioned, charming, magical adventure, right up my street then. Right up m ...more
Sophie Crane
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: women-in-h-f, animals
I have loved this book since I heard the story read on the radio as a child. It is a great story to introduce children to the world of magic and adventure especially if they have a pet cat. It is well written even though it is a little outdated referring to old money rather than decimal currency. I would recommend this book for any child or bed time reading by parents.
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
A gentle British fantasy originally published in 1955. A good hearted little girl's new pet turns out to be a former witch's cat, enslaved by a spell. Rosemary, her friend John, and the talking cat Carbonel rush around London gathering the items needed to break the spell. I enjoyed their adventures and the story earns 3 stars from me. Carbonel earns a fourth. His independent, sarcastic, yet affectionate personality is exactly right.
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a sweet children’s book! It has all the elements of a classic British kid’s book from the midcentury which I am fond of. And I’m always a sucker for stories about young girls discovering magic and saving the day.
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: reading-with-aj
I remember loving the Carbonel books as a kid, so I was excited to get this to read with my 7 year old, but it wasn't quite as engaging as I remembered and was a little too slow and old-fashioned to interest my son.. it took us nearly a year to get through!
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
How could I have missed this book as a kid? A charming, well-written tale of mischief and magic, it is precisely the kind of story I loved. So glad the The New York Review continues to turn out these forgotten gems!
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I never read this series as a child and I'm sorry I missed it. I really enjoyed this one, the first in the series. The characters were all well developed and believable - well - as believable as owning a magic broom and a talking cat can be - and for being written in 1955 it is not nearly as dated as it might be. I love the binding of the 2004 publication - it is so reminiscent of books of the 50's and before.

It's a sweet and simple story, the magic gentle and non-violent. I wished that Carbone
There was a reason why I chose to pick up this book although for the life of me I cannot remember why. I am, however, very glad that I did and am with Hilary (reviewer) when she gave it a sterling 4.5 stars.

Written in 1955 and part of a series of books that would span over 13 years of Sleigh's writing career, Carbonel is a magical-realism, rags-to-riches story (although the 'riches' part is not overdone at all) of a young girl and her mother who, with very little money, look to cover the costs
Karen GoatKeeper
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Rosie needs a broom and goes to an open air market to find one. It's late and most shops have closed. All she can find is an old twig broom. Then she gives three Queen Victoria coins for a big black cat.
The broom is a witch's broom. Carbonel is a witch's cat and under a silent magic spell. Rosie is his way to undo the spell so he can reclaim his father's throne as Kind of the Cats.
Along the way Rosie and Carbonel team up with John. They seek the hat and cauldron. Along the way they meet many int
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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What's the Name o...: SOLVED. Old YA with talking cats, witches, mystery [s] 11 142 Feb 01, 2015 04:20PM  

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Barbara Sleigh (1906-1982) worked for the BBC Children's Hour and is the author of Carbonel and two sequels: The Kingdom of Carbonel and Carbonel and Calidor.

Other books in the series

Carbonel (3 books)
  • The Kingdom of Carbonel (Carbonel #2)
  • Carbonel and Calidor: Being the Further Adventures of a Royal Cat (Carbonel #3)

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