Monday, June 26, 2006
The CatLady by Dick King-Smith
A hot hot day in Victoria. Too hot, even for me, and so atypical of the west coast. Today I read The Catlady by Dick King-Smith of Babe: The Gallant Pig fame. I started out so excited because it's one of those short chapter books for late primary or early intermediate grades, and I'm always being asked by teachers about good ones. Sadly, I don't think this is one I can really recommend. I say sadly as I am a huge King-Smith fan. I usually enjoy his slow, charming style with asides. This story lacks his characteristic charm, and the characters are more boring than quirky. As well, the sentence structure is much to complex for the intended audience, not to mention the reincarnation theme is poorly carried out.
The story revolves around an eccentric old lady who shares her home with several dozen cats, some of whom she believes to be her reincarnated family members as well as at least one very famous member of the Royal Family. Taking care of the cats becomes a bit of chore for the elderly lady--enter a young orphan who helps out, only to find the growing cat population to be too much. Unfortunately, King-Smith has told Catlady from the old woman's point of view rather than from the young orphan's and thus misses an opportunity that writers of contemporary fiction would envy--that is, having a kid who doesn't have to account to adults while engaging in all sorts of adventures. Even the cat voices are quite pedestrian which is surprising for so experienced a writer. In fact, King-Smith does far too much telling and not enough showing. So, if you are on the look out for a good chapter book for young readers, or if you are a big King-Smith fan, give this one is a pass.