cover image Tom and Francine: A Love Story

Tom and Francine: A Love Story

Sylvia Fraser. Key Porter Books, $12.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-55013-944-0

Country bumpkin meets city slicker in this rambling tale of two kitties. When hayseed Tom, an orange tiger cat equivalent of Jethro of the Beverly Hillbillies (he even sports jeans held up with a rope belt) heads for town looking for work, he approaches a slinky Siamese at a park to make inquiries. Coolly sophisticated in her leopard-print overalls, Francine snubs him (""Don't make me be rude. Just step aside, please./ I don't talk to strangers in case they have fleas""), but quickly changes her tune when the stalwart out-of-towner saves her from a pit bull. Now smitten, she spiffs up her hero and helps him find work as a mouser. Unfortunately, the relentless beat of the rhyme and the heavy-handed moral (""You've taught me, Tom, what I've learned from no other:/ It's not fair to judge any cat by his cover./ In this shallow world it is equally true/ That it's wise to help character shine its way through""), weigh down the quirky story. Fernandes's playful illustrations with their semi-tropical palette and intriguingly curved wide-angle perspectives enliven the pages with a jaunty flair, yet ultimately the featured couple comes off as caricature. Ages 5-9. (Sept.)