cover image How the Cat Swallowed Thunder

How the Cat Swallowed Thunder

Lloyd Alexander. Dutton Children's Books, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-525-46449-5

Like the sorcerer's apprentice, Cat has more than he can handle when Mother Holly leaves him in charge of her cottage. To clean up a spill, Cat uses the watering can, but it unexpectedly causes a full-fledged rainstorm; the bellows he uses to fan a fire whip up howling winds; and popping corn produces thunderbolts. Alexander (The House Gobbaleen; the Prydain series) doesn't explain the mysterious occurrences until Mother Holly's return. At that point Mother Holly discloses that she uses her watering can for April showers, her bellows for March winds, etc. Cat is convinced he's going to be punished, until a kernel of corn he has swallowed makes his stomach rumble and his ""marvelous song"" makes Mother Holly ""happy and peaceful""--the story has opened in a time ""when the Cat had no purr."" Unfortunately, this pourquoi tale of magic and mayhem has such a complicated plot and so many loose ends that a young reader could easily end up as befuddled as Cat himself. Older readers, however, will enjoy Alexander's rhythmical sentences and witty dialogue. Schachner's (The Grannyman) cartoonish watercolors convey the slapstick humor and chaos, but her googly-eyed characters are often less appealing than the background details. Children will enjoy spotting carved owl bedposts, cat nesting dolls lined up on a windowsill and, especially, the two mice who appear on each page. Ages 5-9. (Aug.)