In King-Smith's (Babe: The Gallant Pig) warm-hearted tale set in 1901, an eccentric elderly woman shares her late parents' home with 20 cats. The felines dine with her at the table and curl up on her bed, where, "with her rather sharp features, green eyes, and gray hair tied back to show her somewhat pointed ears," the sleeping woman herself "looked much like a giant cat." Muriel Ponsonby's rapport with her brood takes on a diverting dimension: she believes in reincarnation, and some of these furry companions are deceased friends, family members (including her parents) and even Queen Victoria-come back as felines. Born on the same day this monarch died, Vicky adds humor to the narrative, waddling "regally" and speaking haughtily in the royal we ("We do not have enough attention paid to us. We are, after all, the most important cat in the house-in the land, indeed"). Mary, an orphan, moves in and helps look after the menagerie, and later inherits Muriel's home and pets when the woman passes away. Shrewd readers will anticipate that the event is less sad than it might be, in a house where spirits are reborn; indeed, six months later, "a gray cat... with a sharp face and green eyes and rather pointed ears" marches into the house and leaps onto Muriel's bed. Eastwood contributes appealing pen-and-inks to this pleasantly quirky story, bound to make kids gaze more intently into the eyes of their feline friends. Ages 7-10. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Everyone has read newspaper stories about eccentric old ladies who live alone with dozens of cats. Dick King-Smith introduces us to one of them here: Muriel Ponsonby, known to all as the Catlady. The Catlady dines each night with her hordes of cats; even, "on occasion, so as not to seem standoffish, she would fill a bowl with milk and lap from it." She sleeps with them, too, grateful for the "warm, furry bedspread" they create. But her "barminess" goes still further, for Miss Ponsonby is convinced that many of her cats are reincarnated humans, including Percival (her late father); Florence (her late mother); and the regal, imperious Vicky, the reincarnation of none other than Queen Victoria herself. When the Catlady advertises for "help wanted," no one applies for the position, until orphaned Mary Nut appears in a snowstorm at her door and ends up joining this strange, mostly feline family. King-Smith's gentle story makes the unusual behaviors and unfamiliar beliefs of others seem both reasonable and appealing. Certainly many cat fanciers will have no difficulty entertaining the idea that their beloved pets may be reincarnated royalty. Eastwood's amusing and expressive drawings provide the perfect complement to this amiable tale. 2006, Knopf, Ages 7 to 10.
Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
Gr 2-4-In this beginning chapter book set in 1901, Muriel Ponsonby, aka the Catlady, keeps a large number of felines on her large country estate. The eccentric woman is a firm believer in reincarnation; she examines each new kitten thoughtfully and can determine if it's someone she once knew or just an ordinary cat. As the story opens, her deceased parents are living with her. She is both surprised and pleased to find Queen Victoria among her latest arrivals. The royal guest is allowed to eat first, has a bed of honor, and receives all other special treatments befitting a monarch. Miss Ponsonby secures a village girl to help around the house and develops a strong friendship with Mary. When the elderly woman finally dies, the property is left to the Royal Society for the Protection of Cats, with young Mary in charge. Naturally, she has been thoroughly swayed to the idea when the reincarnated Miss Ponsonby shows up as a strange and confident cat six months later. Sprinkled with black-and-white sketches deftly portraying the tale's subtle British humor, The Catlady will appeal to King-Smith fans. A lighthearted glimpse into the feline world.-Debbie Whitbeck, West Ottawa Public Schools, Holland, MI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
To the few cat stories in King-Smith's stable, this latest poses a new dimension and meaning to the term "nine lives." Almost every community has one-the elderly spinster with a household overrun with cats. Whenever a new litter is born, Miss Ponsonby stares into their eyes to figure out if the cat is a cat or a reincarnation of a person. She believes that her parents, friends and cousins have all reappeared in feline form. To her surprise and delight, when she peers into the eyes of a ginger female born on January 22, 1901, she gasps: The cat is the queen-Queen Victoria. The rest is pure melodrama: Mary Nutt, orphan, becomes the Catlady's aide; Miss P. becomes bedridden and dies, leaving her house to the Royal Society for the Protection of Cats, with living privileges for Mary. Naturally, she returns as a cat. Black-and-white line sketches litter the pages but disappoint due to the appealing color cover. King-Smith fans won't find this a cuddly animal tale: The cats don't speak human language and the dependence of the story on the belief of reincarnation may provoke questions that adults are uncomfortable answering. (Fiction 7-10)