cover image Kaspar the Titanic Cat

Kaspar the Titanic Cat

Michael Morpurgo, illus. by Michael Foreman. Harper, $16.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-06-200618-9

Former British children’s laureate Morpurgo (War Horse) offers a sweet, touching historical novel (published in the U.K. in 2008) that balances sentimentality with humor and action. The orphaned 14-year-old narrator, Johnny Trott, a put-upon bellhop at a London hotel, becomes the caretaker of the titular cat after the sudden death of Kaspar’s owner, the opera singer Countess Kandinsky. As Johnny attempts to hide his new charge from the hotel’s malicious head housekeeper, Mrs. Blaise (nicknamed “Skullface”), he worries that Kaspar is pining for his late owner. Kaspar cheers up when he meets Lizziebeth, a girl who instantly takes to the cat. Morpurgo keeps the action moving swiftly, with new characters and concerns shoring up the fast friendship that forms between the two teenagers (and the cat they love). Readers might find the title misleading—only about a third of the story takes place on board the Titanic, although it certainly represents the tensest part of the novel—but the story is more than enjoyable enough to compensate, with Foreman’s delicately detailed spot art contributing to the book’s strong sense of atmosphere. Ages 8–12. (Mar.)