Dick Whittington and His Cat
Margaret Hodges. Holiday House, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-1987-6
Hodges (Saint George and the Dragon) retells the age-old story of how a boy coming from nothing, makes something of himself in this true-to-life saga of the three-time Lord Mayor of London. Orphaned young Dick Whittington arrives in the city with the expectation of finding wealth and prosperity. After his hopes are quickly dashed (""He could not find clean water. At night, thirsty and dirty, he huddled in doorways to sleep""), he comes upon a wealthy merchant who offers him provisions and a spot as his cook's assistant. The story takes on somewhat of a Cinderella-esque tone, as Dick is tormented by the merchant's cook (""She never lost a chance to beat him""). Potter's (Pizza for the Queen) dark ink-and-gouache illustrations aptly reflect the hero's gloomy existence in London, somewhat tempered by the arrival of a feline offering some much-needed warmth. Pet lovers will surely feel Dick's pain when he offers up Tabby at the request of his master. But Tabby becomes the catalyst for his reversal of fortune, and Dick becomes a changed man whose generosity benefits all. This text-heavy tale may be a bit dense for youngest readers, but the lesson of ""give and ye shall receive"" is one that they will easily understand. Ages 4-8.
Reviewed on: 04/03/2006