cover image His Royal Whiskers

His Royal Whiskers

Sam Gayton, illus. by Sydney Hanson. S&S/McElderry, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4814-9090-0

Fantasy and fable intermingle in this whirling story set in the fictional Petrossian Empire, ruled by a bombastic czar with a “ceaseless appetite for conquering.” Disgusted that his six-year-old son, Alexander, lacks “bloodthirst” and “butchery” and instead has a “stubborn streak of kindness,” the czar turns apoplectic when he learns that his heir has morphed into a kitten. Two young palace residents—Pieter Abadabacus, a number-obsessed “mathemagician,” and Teresa Gust, a budding alchemist—are responsible for the transformation, after accidentally dousing the prince with a potion concocted for the czar. An ancient and kind sorceress plays a key role in the escalating battle between good and evil, which leads to a beheading and a visit to the afterlife that melds comedy and the macabre. Gayton (Hercufleas) spices his sprawling narrative with puns, invented words, fairy tale allusions, and tongue-in-cheek footnotes that make for funny and high-energy reading. Yet this fantasy remains firmly grounded in meaningful messages about identity, loyalty, and friendship. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. [em]Author’s agent: Becky Bagnell, Lindsay Literary. Illustrator’s agency: Shannon Associates. (Nov.) [/em]