The Castle of Cats: A Story from Ukraine

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
As always, Kimmel demonstrates his storytelling genius this time in a book matching three brothers against each other in an effort to win the farm. In this type of folktale, the youngest brother is often portrayed as a simpleton with his own take on life. Throughout the course of the tale, the brothers are all presented with these three tasks: Find the prettiest wedding scarf, the prettiest wedding dress, and the prettiest bride. Ivan, the simple brother, travels to the Castle of Cats for all three challenges. He proves successful in his attempts and the reader discovers that what you see is not always what is there. Lively, yet soothing language describes the brother's ventures into the world. The text calls for one re-read after another. Illustrations play in harmony with the text. They are wispy, frothy, and eye-catching. Something new in the illustrations can be discovered with every reading. Teachers, librarians, and parents can't go wrong when this book is read to aloud or placed upon the shelf for children to enjoy. The original tale is from Latvia. Kimmel and Krenina, however, choose to set it in Ukraine. 2004, Holiday House, Ages 4 to 8.
—Nancy Garhan Attebury
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-A father sets his three sons three tasks to determine which one should inherit the family farm: to bring back "the most beautiful wedding kerchief," wedding dress, and bride. The youngest brother, Ivan, would prefer to play with his leather ball, but he is encouraged to at least try. Each time, the family horse takes him to a magnificent palace populated entirely by elegantly attired cats. The felines are enamored of the gifts he presents-first the leather ball, then some catnip leaves, and finally a wooden ring that he offers to their queen. Ivan always receives a present in return, including the queen herself in human form as a bride, enabling him to trump his brothers and win the farm. Ivan prefers an alternative "happily ever after," however, and returns instead to the castle with his feline bride and becomes a cat. A note explains that although the tale is Latvian, the author and illustrator have moved the setting to the Ukraine, as evidenced both by the flavor of the language and specifics in the artwork. Kimmel has a true storyteller's voice and keeps the action moving at an energetic pace without sacrificing images or details. Krenina's watercolor and mixed-media paintings match the text's energy, and her palette of pinks and jewel-bright rubies add elegance. Like the collaborators' The Magic Dreidels (1996) and The Birds' Gift (1999, both Holiday), this offering is a winner.-Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Based on a Latvian tale, but set in Ukraine, Kimmel's retelling is the story in which the youngest son wins the quest but gives up the prize his two brothers covet. Never very interested in entering the family fray for the farm, Ivan is prodded by his father into competing. Ivan happens upon the Castle of Cats and finds that the queen of cats is very helpful in his success. After winning all three of the challenges-the most beautiful wedding kerchief (inside a walnut); the most beautiful wedding dress (inside an acorn); and the most beautiful bride (the cat queen herself)-Ivan declines the farm, leaving it to his brothers Petro and Havrilo. Ivan and his bride ride off in their coach, never to be seen again. Krenina's collage and painted illustrations, full of pattern and detail, bring a sense of old-world charm to the oft-told story. A retelling that emphasizes the idea that the quest for happiness is not the same for all people. An additional purchase. (Folktale. 4-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823415656
  • Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/2004
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD510L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

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