Walter Dean Myers, , illus. by John Speirs. . Holiday, $15.95 (80pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-1676-9

Myers (Monster) shifts gears to offer younger readers an entertaining swashbuckler set in 1420 Spain. The author sets up the conflict between the Moors and the Catholics in a way that the audience can understand easily: cats versus dogs. In cat-dominated Málaga, which Speirs's (The Little Boy's Christmas Gift) charming pen-and-ink and wash drawings depict as an intimate seaside town, a trio of young feline friends, Askia, Poco and lovely Lacy, confront a pair of Fidorean Guards, part of a larger canine group attempting to seize control of their city. It soon becomes clear that the dogs intend to take Granada and thereby capture Spain. Painting the enemy as a troupe of burly "curs" gives Myers ample opportunity to launch a plethora of comical quotes (e.g., "We will not let the glories of our kingdom go to the dogs," cries their leader, Pietro). His three heroines contribute mightily to the cats' united efforts to secure Spain's safety, and their viewpoint keeps the historic struggle in terms to which youngsters can relate. The action culminates at the Alhambra, "the palace of the Moors and the sacred home of the cats." Colorful characters on the sidelines (Romulus the rat, who is "almost as wide as he was tall"; a company of gypsy cats that the threesome meets on the road to Granada) add extra depth and breadth. Readers will likely have so much fun that they may not realize how much history they are learning along the way. Ages 7-10. (Aug.)