Rating: 4 stars
“City Cat” by Kate Banks will quickly become a favorite of young readers everywhere. It’s the story of a stray cat who stows away in the car of a family on vacation.
The first stop on their joint adventure is Italy, and parents or teachers can point out the Colosseum, which is the clue. The next stop is obviously France (French cafe), but some of the other stops are not so clearly labeled. There are landmarks, and clever teachers (and parents) will like having the kids do some research (don’t let them look at the end papers, which include a map of the cat’s travels) to figure out where the cat ventures.
Along the way, the cat finds different methods of transportation, but astute readers will also notice the original family with whom the cat hitched a ride populates many of the same pages as the cat. And stray cat comes back with the same family to his original home.
Banks’ use of figurative language is lovely, and while she varies the rhyme schemes — sometimes every other line, sometimes every line, sometimes within a line — it all works. The meter also is different in different sentences, but the take-away is a feeling of movement and forward propulsion.
Clever inclusions tie the story together. The family’s son is the only one who really notices the cat from beginning to end, and in the end, they share the same dream of “blinking city lights… and city nights.”
The last pages show the actual sights that the city cat, and the family, visited.
Fiction? Yes. Nonfiction? Certainly it has elements of nonfiction — at least as it relates to the travel.
Some children might question whether it was all a dream. The boy’s dream? The cat’s dream? It’s also a fantasy — no cat could ever really travel all that way. Especially without a passport.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Farrar Straus Girouxs, for review purposes.