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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Who Will Bell the Cat? Written by Patricia C. McKissack and illustrated by Christopher Cyr. Holiday House, Penguin Random House, 2018. $$21.99 ages 5 and up

"For weeks, the two mice
worked. They cut a leather
band from an old saddlebag
and pulled the band through
the bell hoop. The mice made a knot at one end of the leather band and made a hole at the other end. Done! It was a perfect collar, tailor-made for Marmalade."

What a terrific retelling this is! The mice first meet Marmalade when she finds shelter in their barn. She is sick, and she is hungry. The mice are kind and caring - they share their food, and help the cat return to fine form. She proves unworthy of their concern. Once healthy, she returns to her feline ways. She intimidates them at every turn.

"You knew I was a cat when you let me in,"
Marmalade replied with a wicked growl "I'm
simply doing what cats do - chasing mice!"

The mice know they must do something. They have no desire to leave the only home they have known. No matter what they decide to do, the doing could be deadly. Seizing upon the discovery of a sleigh bell, the decision is made to 'bell the cat.'

Who will be brave enough to do that? Marmalade is a formidable foe. Perhaps, a pack of rats can assure success. Or, will cunning on the part of the mice provide an unwitting accomplice?

Christopher Cyr uses digital tools to provide artwork that is dramatic and powerful, matching the danger inherent in a tale that pits mice against a mortal enemy. He uses shadow and light, and dramatic hues to great success. Marmalade's eyes are terrifying as she boldly and consistently menaces the many tiny rodents wanting to feel protected from her wrath. I really appreciate the changing perspectives and readers will, too.

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