cover image The Sign of the Cat

The Sign of the Cat

Lynne Jonell. Holt/Ottaviano, $16.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9683-5

A boy who has been taught to hide his true potential is thrust into extraordinary circumstances when he gains the wrong sort of attention. Eleven-year-old Duncan McKay, who learned to speak the language of cats at an early age, is frustrated by his mother’s insistence that he hold himself back at school and avoid any sort of notoriety. In a moment of weakness, he confides in the famous Earl of Merrick—and ends up shanghaied onto the Earl’s ship as a new crew member. There, Duncan learns that his absent father was notorious traitor Duke Charles and that the ambitious Earl wants to dispose of Duncan. After Duncan goes overboard, he discovers a helpful tiger, a missing princess, and a secret that turns his world upside-down. Jonell (The Secret of Zoom) offers an adventurous, swashbuckling tale, albeit one with a few too many predictable elements and a somewhat convoluted plot. Younger readers will love Duncan’s kitten companion, Fia, and the majestic tiger Brig, but the Earl’s eating habits will appall just about everyone. Ages 8–14. Agent: Stephen Barbara, InkWell Management. (June)