Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed

Lesléa Newman, illus. by Amy June Bates. Candlewick, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6555-5
Here’s a lovely tale of cross-species affection and creativity, based on a true story (recounted in an afterword). While seeking inspiration in the busy streets of New York City, a composer and pianist named Moshe Cotel finds and adopts a stray kitten, bestowing it with the Yiddish name Ketzel (for “kitten”). Ketzel proves more than a companion: when Moshe needs an entry for a music competition restricted to pieces no longer than one minute, the kitten steps in and composes a piece by walking across the keys (Moshe dubs it “Piece for Piano: Four Paws” and gives her full credit). Newman’s great affection for her subject is evident, yet she never crosses into cutesiness or sentimentality; her reportorial tone is a perfect match for her down-to-earth, generous hero. Bates, working in hues of parchment and gold, produces some wonderfully warm vignettes, pushing the graceful realism of her watercolor, gouache, and pencil drawings just enough to add a glint of magic to a story that’s already one of a kind. Ages 5–8. Author’s agent: Elizabeth Harding, Curtis Brown. Illustrator’s agency: Shannon Associates. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/10/2015
Release date: 10/06/2015
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