From School Library Journal
Grade 4-7–Having grown up at the top of the Hill behind walls with the Contessa, Varjak Paw and his family of Mesopotamian Blue cats have experienced only luxury. With the Contessa's death and the ominous intrusion of the stranger, Varjak is forced to abandon his family, including his grandfather, Elder Paw whose stories about their ancestor, Jalal, give him courage and hope to return to rescue them. During this journey, he meets feral cats and gangs, and faces all the dangers of urban life. He is transformed and brings salvation to all who encounter him. Guidall's narration of the novel by SF Said (Random, 2003) is exceptional, providing a myriad of distinct animal voices, and sometimes investing words with a cat-like howl or barking syllables. From the arrogant and youthful Julius to the street smart Holly, each vocalization is filled with personality through tone, inflection, and timing. The most significant of these is Jalal, the ancestral spirit who visits Varjak Paw in dreams. Guidall brings the flavor of Star War's
Yoda to this character through his diction and timing, giving him the thoughtful, slow-paced speech of the ultimate teacher of the Way. In addition, Guidall adapts his audio style to the multi-faceted writing styles of the novel. When Varjak is climbing the wall to escape the attack of the black cats, Guidall reads this section like a poem, instead of the linear style in which it is written. This infuses urgency and tension into the novel with pauses and rhythm. The book and audio version used together are a great duo for reluctant readers.–Tina Hudak, St. Bernadette School, Silver Spring, MD
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Gr. 4-6. In this British import, a Mesopotamian Blue kitten, Varjak Paw, leaves his sheltered, privileged life to venture out into the world to save his family from invading black cats. To survive in a dangerous city full of vicious dogs, cat gangsters, and the mysterious, evil Vanishings, Varjak learns the Seven Skills in the Way of Jalal, a secret martial art for cats. Mastering the Way helps the cat learn to trust his own instincts, which comes in handy after he decides to enlist the help of a dog to fight the evil cats and save his family. Varjak is a spirited adventurer who evolves gradually and believably into a courageous protagonist. By cleverly and adeptly relating the story through a cat's perspective, Said makes the novel especially fascinating. McKean's striking, black-and-white sketches add an edgy, haunting aspect to the tale, which is full of action, adventure, and suspense. The story is sure to leave readers looking forward to more about the formidable feline. Ed SullivanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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