cover image The Cat with Seven Names

The Cat with Seven Names

Tony Johnston, illus. by Christine Davenier. Charlesbridge, $16.95 (36p) ISBN 978-1-58089-381-7

Like the sailor with a love interest in every port, this feline hero has persuaded several households that he’s a stray in need of feeding—despite his truly impressive girth. Johnston (Laugh-Out-Loud Baby) gives each of the cat-lovers a distinctive (if slightly caricatured) voice and a particular loneliness or longing. Davenier’s (the Very Fairy Princess books) loosely sketched spreads, painted in gentle pastels, offer more cheerful notes, softening the characters and making their essential benevolence clear. There’s a librarian (“He is so big I have dubbed him Stuart Little”), an older man (“Name’s Kitty-boy. I hope he likes that”), a Mexican widower (“Placido... you keep dry, amigo”), a hardworking cop (“I called him Mooch”), a homeless veteran (“Ol’ kitty brings me... a speck of peace. That’s why I call him Dove”), and a single mother and her daughter (“Here, Mouse... have some leftover ham”). A minor accident brings the six together and reveals the cat’s secret in a quietly satisfying way. Johnston’s story combines the particular charm of cats, the flavor of city life, and the way unexpected events make communities out of strangers. Ages 5–8. (Aug.)