cover image Leo the Magnificat

Leo the Magnificat

Ann Matthews Martin. Hyperion Books for Children, $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-590-48498-5

A charmer like its feline hero, this book is based on the life of an actual cat who wandered into the yard of a Louisville, Ky., church one Sunday and stayed for 12 years. A pro at age-appropriate writing, Martin (the Baby-sitters Club series; Rachel Parker, Kindergarten Show-off) uses brief, snappy sentences in both descriptive prose and dialogue, also lacing her text with deftly positioned parenthetical asides. As she describes his adventures, readers will easily understand why Leo (who ""belonged to nobody, and he belonged to everybody"") earns the affections of virtually the entire congregation as well as local shopkeepers and homeless folk. The narrative draws to a sad but truthful close as the aged, ailing cat is given a shot ""that will help him die peacefully"" and is later buried in the church garden. Like the author, Caldecott Medalist McCully (Mirette on the High Wire) skillfully avoids the sentimental and cutesy. Her polished, softly focused art depicts the congenial fellow in believably endearing poses: sitting in a pew, singing along with the other churchgoers; curled up on his favorite bed, which is the sheep costume from the Christmas pageant. An ailur-ing choice for cat lovers of any age. Ages 5-8. (Oct.)