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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lulu and the Cat in the Bag, written by Hilary McKay. Albert Whitman and Company, Thomas Allen & Son. 2013. $14.99 ages 7 and up

"MeeeOW! said the inside of the bag, and out jumped the most enormous cat that Lulu and Mellie had ever seen. A glow-in-the-dark orange cat with eyes like lime-green sweets. Fur like a cloud. Paws like beanbags. A tail like a fat feather duster. "Wow!" said Lulu and Mellie, and they reached out admiring, grabbing hands."

This is the third in a perfect set of stories for children who want to read early chapter books. Lulu has a love affair with animals of all sorts. In the first two installments, she met a duck and a dog that needed a place in her menagerie of pets. She is a dedicated and responsible caregiver to any animal that finds its way to her door.

Her grandmother is not so happy with most pets. She is pretty emphatic about the way she feels:

"Small creatures, like hamsters, made her squeal. Larger ones, like rabbits, that looked so cuddly and had such sharp claws and teeth, made her nervous. Parrots, thought Nan, were perfect for jungles -but definitely not perfect for living rooms. Dogs were dirty beasts - large and smelly and best out of doors."

Nan is staying with the girls while Lulu's parents are away on vacation. When a bag is left on their doorstep and is obviously housing some living thing, she wants nothing to do with it. Lulu opens it, the cat disappears and they think that is the end of it. A search finds nothing. When Lulu finds it later sleeping on her bed, she wants to offer a safe harbor and keep it from her grandmother. The cat is not so devious, or content to stay quiet.

Eventually, as pets so often do, the cat wends its way into the hearts of the three. It has some special powers over other animals and people, apparently. Then, one day, it disappears again. If you think about it, you will probably be able to guess why.

A treat for new readers, and an owner who does take her responsibilities to her animals very seriously. Bravo, Lulu!

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