Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, January 13, 2014

That's Some Cat...

Decades have come and gone since my close encounters of the feline kind.  All through school my best friend had a cat.  No matter how many people might be in a room, that bundle of fur loved to weave in and out around my legs.  When a group of girls would have a sleepover at my friend's home, it was a given the creature would be found sleeping next to or on my head by morning.  How is it possible for a true blue dog lover to be a cat magnet?

I guess there is no feasible explanation for the whims of these cuddly critters. Author illustrator Judy Schachner introduces readers to another rare example in bits & pieces (Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.).  I think Xena (I read books aloud to discover pacing and cadence.) actually smiled by the third page.  It has something to do with ears and a frozen pea.

For a cat, 
Tink was
an odd duck.

Despite any flaws Tink is beloved by all the members of his family.  He seems to be a little short in the intelligence category as his two human sisters discover one day.  His eating habits rival those of any self-respecting goat.

This appetite for a weird variety of items lands the lad at the vet.  The memory of this visit which lingers the longest is being outside the house.  Nevertheless, Tink does what his family does whether he receives an invitation or not; they don't mind because their affection for this fellow is of the highest variety.

It is for Tink's well-being another member is introduced into the household; a smaller version of himself.  It is a tad bit dicey for a short while but the two become fast friends.  Tink is a unique mentor offering advice on all things; even the outdoors for which he has no experience.  It is not for a lack of trying.

It is on his twentieth birthday Tink is finally able to make his escape.  This sense of freedom is exhilarating until, as darkness falls, Tink realizes he is unable to find his way home.  Quick thinking on the part of his family and two observant neighborhood girls bring Tink's day of exploration to a humorous conclusion.

Given her success with the Skippyjon Jones books and this title, it's hard not to wonder if Judy Schachner might not have the ability to understand the language of cats.  She immediately hooks readers with her first two sentences.  Her descriptions of Tink's antics couldn't be more laughable and truer.  It's in her conversational narrative, including some dialogue and vivid descriptions readers will come to enjoy if not love Tink as much as his family.  Here are a couple of samples.

Though his experience was limited,
Tink's best lessons were all about
the great outdoors.
And over the years he tried to get more experience.
"Get back here, Sneaky Pete."
"Oh no you don't Monkey Pants."
"Gotcha Butterball!"
But it was a battle Tink would always lose.

But moments before the lid was lowered, the two little sleuths on silver scooters came racing toward the crowd.

Opening up the matching jacket and cover, readers are greeted on the front with a picture worthy of melting even the hardest of hearts; Tink and the newest member of the residence curled together in sweet sleep.  On the back his two human sisters are seated on a bench, Tink between them, their arms and love wrapped around him. The title page illustration is of Tink on his back lounging on a colorful rug, four legs and paws in the air.

Rendered in charcoal pencil, pan pastels, watercolor and cut paper the visuals' sizes are altered according to the text, single page insets, single pages edge to edge, double pages or small vignettes clustered together on a page.  Overall there is an uplifting gentleness depicted.  Readers sense if they were to touch the pages, they might feel the softness of cat fur.  Extra details definitely bring on the smiles; the tiny mouse toys, the look in Tink's eyes, depending on the circumstances, and Tink's last seen action on the day of his disappearance being duly noted in the lost cat posting.

One of my favorite illustrations is of Tink and the new small cat, their backs to the reader, looking out the window during winter.  Side by side, ears perked up listening, you wonder what each of them is thinking.  Do they see something moving outside?

You don't have to be a friend of cats to appreciate the delight of bit & pieces written and illustrated by Judy Schachner. It's a heartwarming tribute to a much-loved family member.  Without a doubt this story will be a favorite, much-requested title.

For more information about author illustrator Judy Schachner and her books please follow the link embedded with her name in the above paragraph.

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