The Secret Cat

"Some people have pets./ Others don't./ I wish I could have one./ But I'm not allowed to."

Like so many children, Lucy wants a pet. But as her mom tucks Lucy into bed, she gives her daughter all the ("bad") reasons why they can't: not enough space, family allergies.... Lucy, in skeleton pajamas, pouts in bed until her mother leaves, when she hears a "scratching sound behind the wallpaper." "Guess my name," a purring voice says, "And then I'll come to you." Lucy guesses "Silvring"; a ghostly cat claws open a hole in the lush wallpaper and slinks out. Lucy is delighted. After snacking and playing together inside, Silvring convinces Lucy that they should go outside. The cat, who has been growing while chasing string and eating mashed potatoes, is now big enough for Lucy to ride. Outside, they encounter a world hovering between reality and fantasy, populated with other people out walking their pets, some "ordinary" and some "not." Most are nice, as Silvring tells her, "but some of them are dangerous"--as Lucy discovers the very next moment. Luckily, Silvring has grown even larger and protects her human friend.

With all the poignance and koan-filled mystery of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince and the fantastical magic of Japanese animated fantasy film My Neighbor Totoro, author/illustrator Katarina Strömgård's The Secret Cat (originally published in Sweden) is sure to enchant readers of all ages and pet persuasions. Readers will likely become lost in the whimsical watercolor and ink illustrations of graceful fish flying like kites above a bathrobed man, a queen astride a lumbering polar bear and a deliciously terrifying pair of bizarre beaked villains. Any child who has ever longed for a furry playmate can gleefully hop right on board Lucy's flight of fancy. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

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