Friday, November 1, 2013

Anton and Cecil: Cats at sea by Lisa and Valerie Martin, illustrated by Kelly Murphy

Anton and Cecil are brothers, but the two cats could not be more unalike. Cecil is an adventurous black cat, big and bold, and instead of being scared by the tales of cats being kidnapped to go on ships he rather thinks it would be an adventure. Anton, a small gray cat, really only loves music and can't even be bothered to catch food most of the time. Despite Cecil's brief trips to sea on a fishing ship, it is Anton who is catnapped and stolen away and Cecil who must venture forth on a hopeless quest to find them.

As they cross the ocean, a mystical prophecy of finding what they've lost when they see a cat's eye keeps them going as they endure shipwrecks, storms, pirates, deserted islands, terrifying creatures and a whale who may or may not be friendly.

This story felt very old-fashioned to me, but I enjoyed it even so. Although some of the publicity bills it as an adventure tale, readers picking it up and expecting thrills and excitement will be disappointed. It's an older genre of animal story, where the animals are more anthropomorphous and the action is gentler, even when it involves something that could be scary like shipwrecks or pirates. It reminded me of the Doctor Dolittle stories with their special quality of mild danger, gentle humor, and enjoyment of simple storytelling.

Verdict: This won't be for every kid, most of whom prefer the more genre-ized modern fiction but if you have fans of Kate DiCamillo they may enjoy this return to an older, gentler storytelling tradition.

ISBN: 9781616202460; Published October 8, 2013 by Algonquin Young Readers/Workman Publishing; ARC provided by the publisher at ALA annual 2013

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