Monday, January 30, 2012
Scrawny Cat, written by Phyllis Root and illustrated by Alison Friend. Candlewick, Random House. 2011. $19.00 ages 4 and up
golden across the waves.
Up ahead, just where the
boat was headed,
the scrawny cat saw a rock
and a tree
and a house on the sand."
Phyllis Root is a master of the written word, and here she does it again. She creates a warm and charming story about a lonely cat finding his way to an equally lonely woman who has ostensibly been longing for a companion to share her life.
When we first meet him, the friendless feline is in a pickle. Alone and remembering better times he wanders the streets looking for something he once knew...a feeling of warmth and love. He finds it nowhere and is more likely to be met with a loud and menacing 'get out of here!' than any kind of welcome. He's cold, he's frightened and looking for a place of safety when he ends up under the rain cover of small red dinghy.
While he sleeps safely on the rolling waves a storm blows up and tears the dinghy from its moorings, and out to sea. This water adventure doesn't appear to have given him any chance at a better life:
" Poor shivery scrawny cat!
He lapped the rainwater in the bottom of the dinghy
and wished his stomach didn't chew so on his ribs."
The storm abates and the warm sun illuminates the day and the tabby's heart with promise. As the boat moves toward a sandy shore, listeners will find themselves wishing for a happy ending. To our great delight it is in the cards for this day, at this time, for two mutually needy characters. The woman takes him in, feeds him well, and offers the gentle comfort of a rocking chair. The cat, now named Skipper, returns deep contentment, company and throaty purrs.
Alison Friend uses gouache to help create this action-filled search for a more fulfilling life. Her impressive talent bring the story to the book's audience in a series of moody spreads...some are single page while others are double. There are telling spot pictures and expression-filled images that keep readers connected to the plight of this tiny tawny cat. As he moves toward the woman and her island the mood lightens through use of warm tones and growing sunlight.