Improbable Cat

Improbable Cat

4.3 7
by Allan Ahlberg

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It all begins when David's family takes in a stray kitten. At least that's what the creature appears to be. But David and his faithful dog, Billy, immediately sense something terribly amiss. Then indeed "something crazy--impossible--horrific" happens. . . . See more details below


It all begins when David's family takes in a stray kitten. At least that's what the creature appears to be. But David and his faithful dog, Billy, immediately sense something terribly amiss. Then indeed "something crazy--impossible--horrific" happens. . . .

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Davy, the narrator of Ahlberg's (Each Peach Pear Plum) curious, dark tale tells of an event that occurred when he was 12, "something crazy impossible horrific." He describes how his father, mother and sister become "besotted" with a kitten that limps onto their lawn. In no time at all, the boy notices peculiar goings-on. The new pet grows from a feline that fits into a flowerpot into a cat of monstrous proportions. His mother abandons her activism work, behaves "like a zombie" and takes up smoking. His normally nattily dressed father now looks scruffy and begins drinking sherry. His sister sits on the sofa, patting the cat, her face flushed, "her eyes heavy and glazed." Spellbound, all three cater to this TV-obsessed cat's every whim as the house grows increasingly gloomy ("A kind of gauze hung over things") and Davy begins to suspect that the hypnotic pet is "a dangerous creature." The tale's violent denouement involves a cat-and-dog showdown during which the house catches fire, and the cat hurls itself through a window and is hit by a lorry (it lay "crushed and mangled, flattened between a giant tanker and the Co-op Bakery wall)." Sprinkled with Briticisms, the narrative features some snappy writing, and cross-hatch pen-and-inks nicely dramatize the enigmatic developments. Yet this oddly inconclusive and eerie novel may bewilder readers more than entertain them. Ages 10-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
A reader of this book might never look at a cat in quite the same way. Reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe, the first person narrator convincingly tells a totally bizarre story of a cat with hypnotic powers and dark intentions. David Burrell, now at university, looks back at the incident, which he still cannot quite explain. His life as the son of a normal British couple, with a normal brother, sister, and dog, is utterly changed the day the family takes in a stray kitten. A meticulous description of the weeks that follow shows how the kitten grows into a gigantic anthropomorphized cat, served by those who fall under its power. The household gradually falls apart, with the father failing to leave for work, the mother letting everything go except for feeding the voracious cat, and the sister sitting in a controlled stupor. Like robots or drug addicts, those who pet the cat are all enthralled. Only David, his baby brother, and his dog Billy are immune, since they never touch the furry demon. How its natural enemy—the dog—eventually foils the cat is told in a graphic, bloody scene. But with the cat finally dead, what its purpose was, or what it was turning into, remains forever shrouded in mystery. The Briticisms, the line drawings, the compact, smoothly jacketed book, with attractive red and gold binding, stamp this eerie story as a quaint read-by-the-fireside tale for all ages. 2004 (orig. 2002), Delacorte Press/Random House Children's Books, Ages 10 up.
—Carol Raker Collins, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-In this story of a supernatural and omnivorous cat, 12-year-old David is suspicious when a kitten seems to stupefy his family into obeying its orders when they pat it. The boy is immune to this magic, being allergic to cats and loyal to his dog, Billy. Ahlberg piles on some wonderful detail as the moony and distracted parents cater to the cat's exotic tastes and the animal gets bigger and bigger. On seeing the creature, David's friend George utters an astonished "Christ!" When David returns from a school camping trip, he finds the cat has morphed into a chair-sitting animal drinking wine from a glass, his father is drunk, and the household is a darkened dump. The boy takes action but neither poisoning, trickery, nor hand-to-paw combat work to defeat the devilishly powerful cat. It takes Billy and all of his canine friends to drive the feline from the house. This story reads like an extended folktale, with vocabulary that will challenge younger readers both with British expressions and by Ahlberg's literate narrator. With its small format and Bailey's appealing black-line drawings, this book is likely to appeal to readers younger than the appropriate audience. But for those sophisticated children who love a scary story, this grounds the supernatural scariness in a very literal, frighteningly realistic, and violent setting in the manner of cinema and television. Readers: Beware the cat.-Susan Hepler, Burgundy Farm Country Day School, Alexandria, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
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Random House
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File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
10 Years

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