Monday, June 29, 2015
Miss Hazeltine's Home for Shy and Fearful Cats, written by Alicia Potter and illustrated by Birgitta Sif. Alfred A. Knopf, Random House. 2015. $`19.99 ages 5 and up
Miss Hazeltine has a love affair with cats. Because of that love, she becomes a heroine of the best kind. She opens her home to cats who are abandoned, or lost, or in need of a safe place to prosper.
In the beginning she wonders if there will be any cats needing her help. To her great surprise there are many ... and they have their share of fears and timidity. Crumb is the shyest of the bunch. Miss Hazeltine has great understanding for each of their foibles and wants only to help them be their best selves. Lessons are taught to build their confidence, especially when faced with the broom, or how to deal with birds.
"Miss Hazeltine began her lessons at once.
In the morning, she taught Bird Basics.
In the afternoon, Climbing Up, followed
by Climbing Down.
At night was Scary Noises."
She is not reticent to share her own fears: mushrooms, owls, and the dark. Although unafraid of the dark, Crumb worries that he will never be brave. So, when Miss Hazeltine goes for the milk and gets into some trouble, who do you think helps her and brings her home safely?
"At Crumb's meow, the cats stared down the mushrooms.
They purred to drown out the owl's hoots.
And they pounced to be sure nothing lurked in the dark.
Then they formed a chain of cats to rescue Miss Hazeltine
from the ditch."
Birgitta Sif, as she has done in every one of her other books, brings these characters to glorious life. She gives them such expression and vulnerability. Her richly detailed artwork is fresh and full of charm. White space allows readers to focus on the way that her lively illustrations match Alicia Potter's appealing text, and vibrate with personality and comfort. There is so much to see and appreciate about her interpretation of this winsome story.