Shreve (Jonah, the Whale) skillfully upends a familiar subject--a move to a new home--and crafts a memorable, emotionally honest story. The oldest of four children, 11-year-old Peter has grown up all over the globe: Tokyo, Edinburgh, Rome, Ghana, Prague, Washington, D.C., and Houston. He's liked changing cities and he's especially enjoyed being the head of the "domestic army" of siblings. But now Peter's father, a pediatric neurologist, has settled the family in Boston. As Peter's mother finally enrolls in law school and as his siblings make legions of new friends, Peter misses his old role as his mother's ally and second in command. Making sophisticated use of flashbacks, Shreve anchors Peter's complex feelings in everyday exchanges. Peter narrates, in a voice that is distinct and credible but that lets the other characters--the family members and even their cats--emerge with clear, well-formed personalities. Readers who have struggled with various forms of loss will especially warm to this illuminating and sympathetic story. Ages 8-12. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The Hall family of four children, two parents, and six cats have lived all over the world--but never in one place for long. Eleven-year-old Peter, though, thrives on change. He loves new places. And he especially loves his cats. In fact, since Peter is never in one place long enough to make real friends, his family and cats become his substitute friends. One day, though, Peter's family makes a permanent move to Boston. Now, most of the family's time revolves around work, school and making new friends. Peter, though, misses the closeness of family that he once depended upon, and turns to his many cats for comfort. Throughout the first year in Boston, Peter experiences bitterness, loss, and finally acceptance and maturity when he realizes that permanence and outside friends don't necessarily mean a lessening of love and attachment with his family. Susan Shreve writes a likable story of the love between cats and people that younger readers will enjoy. Moreover, she successfully uses Peter to capture insights about growing up that older readers will appreciate. Genre: Coming of Age/Family. 1999, Arthur A. Levine Books, Ages 9 to 12, $14.95. Reviewer: Susanne L. Johnston
Elevenyear-old Peter Hall has lived all over the world. Change is normal, what he expects. Now that the family is settled in Boston to stay, Peter finds the prospect of permanence disturbing, and he resists making friends. As his siblings adjust, Peter withdraws further into his misery. He misses the past, when the family was a tight, isolated unit, a "domestic army," as his father called them. Each Hall has a cat, an important constant for the children in their travels, but the cats seem unsettled in their new home. The book opens with the death of Rrrr, Peter's cat. As he avoids dealing with the dead cat in the hall, Peter thinks back over their year in Boston. Tobias's cat disappeared and Susan's had a fatal fall from a window, but Tobias and Susan are adjusting to their new life. Could Rrrr's death signal Peter's adjustment to Boston at last? When the cats appear briefly as ghosts, it is to reassure the children that they, cats and children, are securely where they belong. Although the story begins with a death and ends with ghosts, it is a warm, comfortable family account. Shreve does not allow her characters to deal with their problems free from parental involvement. His father worries about Peter, and his mother, who has dreamed of settling in one place, understands when Peter is reluctant to join a friend on a ski trip. Both parents are supportive as their children adapt to permanence and acquire their own lives. The Hall parents become the anchors in their children's lives as the cats depart. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 1999, Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, Ages 12to14, 162p, $14.95. Reviewer: Lynne Hawkins
Gr 5-8-Since birth, sixth-grader Peter Hall has lived in a dozen different places around the globe. Of the six members in his family, he likes change the most. In fact, he relishes each new move and the way their vagabond life brings him and his siblings together, "thick as thieves." Therefore, when his parents tell him they will be living in Boston for a long, long time, his whole world is thrown into chaos. While his younger brother and sisters begin making new friends and having sleepovers and play dates, Peter refuses to fit in. His only friends are the family's six cats. And now, two of the cats have died and one has run away. Told as a flashback, Shreve's story is compelling; however, it is also complex and difficult to follow, and the ghost cats make their appearance only at the end of the book. Though their "visit" gives way to the cathartic resolution of Peter's struggle to embrace his new life, their presence in the title seems deceptive. Rather than a true ghost story, this is actually an insightful, realistic treatment about trying to adapt to change. Peter is a well-drawn character, and his first-person narration will grip readers. His gradual acceptance of his new life rings true. He is not immediately accepted into the school cliques, and it takes work on his part to make friends. A well-written story with lyrical prose that may be lost on all but the most sophisticated readers.-Elaine Baran, Gwinnett County Public Library, Lawrenceville, GA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal - Library Journal
Rich in cats and ill of temper, this sketchy tale from Shreve (Jonah, The Whale, 1998, etc.) is narrated by a sixth grader who is not taking a change in family life well. It's an unusual sort of change: after more than a decade of moving from country to country, Peter's family has settled at last in a Boston townhouse, and he doesn't like the prospects of going to the same school for years, seeing his mother absorbed in law school studies, or watching his younger siblings exchange their old closeness for outside friendships. In flashbacks and snatches of dialogue, Peter angrily introduces each member of his household, including the six cats, as he recounts domestic tempests and incidents, family ties and rituals, plus an ambiguous subplot in which three cats die or disappear, then show up again in the final scene as ghosts. With parents who know when to pay attention and when to back off, Peter adjusts by school year's end, but the story is rescued from outright conventionality only by Peter's uncommon yen for the peripatetic life. Amy Goldman Koss's Ashwater Experiment (p.Ê723 ) is a livelier take on a similar theme, and Shreve's supernatural climax, despite the title, drops into the story like a stone. (Fiction. 10-12)