cover image The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs

The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs

Cylin Busby, illus. by Gerald Kelley. Knopf, $16.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-553-51123-9

In her first middle-grade novel, Busby (Blink Once) introduces Jacob Tibbs, the runt of a litter born to Mrs. Tibbs, a seafaring cat legendary for her rat catching and weather predicting. Born on the Melissa Rae, an English packet ship steered by the beloved Captain Nicholas Natick, Jacob learns that the high seas of 1847 are a terrifying place for a cat when a storm injures the captain and kills Jacob’s mother. Forced to contend with Archer, the inept first mate, the crew and Jacob must decide whether to stick by their captain, despite charges of mutiny, or risk themselves to Archer’s directives. Kelley’s dramatic, detailed illustrations highlight Jacob’s perilous journey, filled with such enemies as Leo Bear (a competing ship cat) and deserted islands hiding possible dangers. Along the way, Jacob proves himself a fit marine feline and discovers good friends in Moses, the cook, and Chippy, a sailor. In addition to giving Jacob an engaging narrative voice, Busby fills the novel with nautical lore and lingo, making Jacob’s journey one to savor. Ages 8–12. Author’s agent: Brenda Bowen, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. Illustrator’s agency: Bright Agency. (Feb.)