Lyon's (A Sign) gracefully folksy prose is matched with Johnson's (The Cow Who Wouldn't Come Down) nostalgic depictions to somber effect in this touching tale of a stray cat who moves in and out of a small-town family's life. "Boulevard was a traveling cat. We named her after the road," begins the narrator, the girl who finds the cat at the drive-in movie. The mostly double-page pencil drawings are shaded to look dusty and a little faded, reinforcing the down-home, period setting. Johnson provides some deeply brooding illustrations. For example, when spring floods prompt the local animals, including Boulevard, to flee to "high ground somewhere in the hills," a drawing of a spindly bridge over swollen water reveals the grief-stricken narrator standing alone near a cluster of worried neighbors: "Only [the Macs' dog] came back." The girl has one of Boulevard's kittens to console her, and the work ends on a poignant, bravely upbeat tone: Mom ventures that Boulevard might have found another family, and "If she did, I'd like to tell them, `Don't expect to keep her. She's a traveling cat.'" The projection of sympathy may console readers whose own pets have also turned out to be the traveling type. Ages 4-7. (Sept.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Johnson's gentle colored-pencil illustrations perfectly complement Lyon's spare text about Boulevard, a "traveling cat...named after the road," and the family that takes her in. Narrated by Ruth, the little girl who finds Bouvie at the playground of the drive-in movie ("No one was missing a cat. `Guess she's ours,' I said."), the story takes place over the course of a year, in which Bouvie has kittens, raises them, and then disappears in the spring during flood time, leaving the family with one kitten, who, unlike his mama, hides under the seat at the drive-in. It is an unsentimental story about loving and letting go, about nurturing and independence. Johnson's illustrations lovingly depict both the human and animal characters, placing them in a realistically rendered setting, with cars, the drive-in movie theater, and domestic details from the 1950s placed in a landscape resembling the hills of Kentucky.
Children's Literature - Linnea Hendrickson
PreS-Gr 2-Not the typical cat story in which a stray appears, adopts a family, and contentment follows, this realistic vignette has moments of both tenderness and sadness. "Boulevard was a traveling cat. We named her after the road." When the feline follows Ruth from the concession stand at the drive-in movie, the family welcomes her into their home. In the fall, she has a litter of five kittens and stays through the winter. Come spring and flood time she retreats, like the other animals, and when she doesn't return they know she has taken to the road again. The colored-pencil illustrations are lifelike but not greeting-card cute. Their dappled texture and the earthiness of the palette create the right feeling for this unsentimental story. The time period is not identified, but visual clues of automobiles and clothing styles as well as the drive-in movie setting indicate the 1950s. The story reads like a personal remembrance, typical of Lyon. The message is subtle and the telling of a shared time remembered fondly is poignant.-Julie Cummins, New York Public Library
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Some cats are born to travel, and such a one is Boulevard, who appears at a drive-in one evening, stays with the young narrator and her family for a year, then leaves as the spring floods arrive. In Lyon's modest text, the child's attachment to her foundling comes through clearly, as does her wistful acceptance at the end that it's not in Boulevard's nature to be a pet. With colored pencils, Johnson produces impressionistic scenes of a semi-rural 1950s setting through which Boulevard, small and dark, pads with composure; she bears and raises a litter of kittens, watches squirrels out the window from a perch on the dryer, shows the dog who's boss, then moves on, a solitary figure on a curving country road. It's rare to find such a distinctly drawn animal character without a trace of an anthropomorphic trait, but Boulevard is through and through a cat among cats. (Picture book. 5-7)