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Friday, December 6, 2013

The Cat with Seven Names, written by Tony Johnston and illustrated by Christine Davenier. Charlesbridge, Thomas Allen & Son. 2013. $19.95 ages 5 and up

"I went out for the paper once, in the cold of dawn. Left the door ajar. With my walker I moved slow as molasses. So a cat slipped in. Just like that. My family's grown and gone, so this little bit of company felt nice. Kinda filled up the house again."

If you are a cat-lover, this is the book for you! Oh, and if you are an aficionado of beautifully written and illustrated picture books, it is also for you! It's really a book for everyone, and will be enjoyed each time it is shared. I guarantee it!

In a series of vignettes, this tubby gray cat brings warmth and cheer to a set of distinctly lonesome characters. Each has a singular voice, a personal reason for providing needed support and sustenance for the obviously well-fed feline, and a solitary place in the community:

"I was resting on the sidewalk, struggling to sleep, when this cat drifted up real quiet-like and rubbed hisself against my cheek. I nearly jumped out o' my skin, thinking it was the enemy come to get me. I was spooked. But ol' kitty, he remained calm. He didn't push me toward friendship. Just sat."

When a close call brings the cat back in contact with his owner, the rest of his benefactors are brought together in their concern for his welfare. Only now do they discover the secret life he has been leading. They also make some special connections within their small urban community. Stuart Little, Kitty-boy, Placido, Mooch, Dove, Mouse and Regis reveal themselves to be a charmer whose wanderings have brought joy to the lives of everyone he meets along the way.

Christine Davenier adds the perfect touch with ink and colored pencil artwork. Most of the action happens on double page spreads. Each community character can be found on the front and back endpapers, allowing readers a chance to see how the appearance of a cat can transform the course of a day for each one of them.

The first person voice, the shifting style for each new caregiver, and the varied issues that color their lives provide many opportunities for further discussion. This is a gorgeous book that will be enjoyed by all.


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