Sumptuous, painterly illustrations and a realistic yet utterly expressive title character distinguish this stylish retelling. Vaes's meticulously researched artwork offers a bounteous feast; every element is executed with precision and panache. (A few contemporary-seeming faces do prove jarring, however, in the midst of the period splendor.) This Puss is a fetching blend of human and catlike traits--Vaes cleverly avoids anthropomorphism while making the creature's exploits totally credible. The final portrait of the triumphant hero eyeing a septet of boot-polishing mice is particularly witty--we don't know whether Puss is admiring their labors or their nutritional value. The carefully characterized supporting cast is resplendently garbed, and intricate architectural touches--elaborate wrought-iron and stonework, a gilded mirror atop a matched console table--contribute to the fully realized setting. Kirstein's dramatic prose, set in a becoming typeface on parchment-like pages, evokes a long-ago, fairy-tale mood while moving the story swiftly to its gladdening conclusion. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)
- Dr. Judy Rowen
When the miller divides his belongings amongst his three sons, the youngest son Robin is given Puss, the cat who keeps rats out of the grain. His older brothers laugh at his allotment, but Puss is no ordinary cat. Through his wiles, Puss manages to introduce Robin at court-and of course, all live happily ever after. The illustrations are sumptuous renderings of the French countryside, with accurate depictions of familiar landmarks such as Versailles.
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4-- This retelling of Perrault's classic reveals a talent for dramatic, well-paced storytelling and some of the flair that has made Kirstein's name a legend in the world of ballet. His slight changes--a magic feather, a compression of incident, alliterative read-aloud prose--enhance the tale, but the text's real strength is that it's a perfect match for the drop-dead illustrations. In contrast to Marcellino's interpretation (Farrar, 1990), which features mellow northern neo-classicism, Vaes evokes a world of high baroque splendor and rococo exuberance. Balletically posed figures and snapshot-vivid faces compete for readers' attention with stunningly defined settings, every detail picked out by light of theatrical intensity. Art-history in-jokes abound; identifiable gems of 17th-century architecture (Vaux-le-Vicomte, the Chateau de Chaument) are peopled by figures from El Greco, Valasquez, Watteau et al--while the king wears W. C. Fields's face. Museum-piece props and sumptuous costumes set off deliberately exaggerated proportions and unexpected perspectives. Puss himself is a triumph: utterly feline, regally poised. Original, witty, gorgeous, allusive, this is a book to pore over and purr over. --Patricia Dooley, University of Washington, Seattle
From Barnes & Noble
This magnificently illustrated version of the classic tale retells the story with great economy and wit. A cornucopia of visual delights that draws on sources from 17th-and-18th century everyday life as references. 10" x 11 1/2". Color illus.