cover image The Thirteenth Cat

The Thirteenth Cat

Mary Downing Hahn. Clarion, $16.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-358394-08-2

Twelve-year-old Brooklynite Zoey loves spending her summers with her aunt Alice in small-town Bexhill, relishing its slow pace and the porch swing at her librarian aunt’s home. But Alice warns Zoey away from the dense forest next door, owned by secretive and hostile neighbor Miss Dupree, who lives alone but for 13 cats. When Zoey sees a small, malnourished feline fleeing the others, she rescues the creature from what seems like a clear case of neglect. Furious, Miss Dupree vows revenge for the theft of Thirteen, whom Zoey renames Nia, inspired by the story of a girl raised by cats. Shaken by their encounters with the frightening elderly woman, Zoey and new friend Lila seek to avoid her and the ever-spying cats. But after a visit from Miss Dupree’s fashionable niece Zleta bewitches Zoey, she realizes that there is more to the cats—and Miss Dupree—than meets the eye. Though the assumed-white characters’ dialogue occasionally verges on wooden, Hahn (Guest), an expert at crafting accessibly scary middle grade suspense, skillfully imbues her nimble thriller with sensibilities fairy tale and feline. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)