cover image Old Robert and the Sea-Silly Cats

Old Robert and the Sea-Silly Cats

Barbara Joosse, illus. by Jan Jutte. Philomel, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-399-25430-7

Old Robert, the wool-capped captain of a diminutive sloop, lives a quiet, predictable life—“Clean socks/ a clock/ my ship in the slip at the dock./ One dish/ one spoon/ a slice of the silver moon”—until cats show up and ask to stay. First to arrive is a dancing cat, followed by a ukulele-playing cat (“He sang the story of love”) and a spoon-juggling cat. Robert is wary at first (“There was no room in the trim little boat for the cat to live”), but by the time a fourth cat arrives (it “didn’t dance or sing or juggle. It just sat”), love has given Old Robert a family. Joosse’s use of language is as playful as her characters, and Jutte’s jaunty, Hergé-style paintings never fail to cheer. In the end, Old Robert breaks his ironclad rule about not sailing at night and takes off under the full moon. Old Robert’s dilemma may seem remote to some children, but the final sea journey makes a gentle, dreamy bedtime image. Ages 3–7. Agent: Scott Treimel, Scott Treimel NY. (Apr.)