cover image The Cinder-Eyed Cats

The Cinder-Eyed Cats

Eric Rohmann. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $17 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-517-70896-5

The enchanted land and dream-like eyes of Rohmann's (Time Flies) cinder-eyed cats are likely to hypnotize readers as effectively as they have the boy in these pages. The title page begins the wordless start to a boy's adventure. He climbs a rope ladder into a Wynken-Blynken-and-Nod-style sailboat that flies through the sky and drops anchor near a sandy beach. From a foreground of jungle ferns entwined with mysterious, curling cats' tails, the reader sees the boy in the distance build an enormous sand fish and fall asleep. Then the lyrical, rhythmic text begins: ""In faraway lands,/ When twilight falls on fair and wind-swept days,/ Cats like velvet shadows move,/ Their coal-fire eyes ablaze."" The boy, the cats, the sand fish (now come to life) and assorted denizens of the sea ""make their getaway"" to the night sky to dance in the moonlight until ""the waking light of dawn."" Then ""suddenly they're gone."" The illustrations take on the quality of animated film as silver fish ""flash like cats' eyes in the light,"" and the boy and his cats reach for the ""sea-blue sky."" Rohmann's (Time Flies) bright-eyed cats and cryptic story are as mesmerizing as a vivid dream that seems at once perfectly clear and vaguely puzzling. Even readers who prefer loose ends to be tied up neatly will respond to these enigmatic golden cats who sleep tumbled together as the boy sails home in his sky-flying boat ""until... the moon comes round once more."" Ages 4-8. (Oct.)