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The Improbable Cat: 02/27/11

cover art

I spotted The Improbable Cat by Allan Ahlberg sitting on the recommended shelf in the children's library. I liked the cover an was curious about the title. I'm glad I read it even though it wasn't what I was expecting.

The cover, the silhouette of a cat sitting before a fire doesn't look especially ominous. The title invokes a slight sense of mystery. What exactly makes a cat improbable?

When David's family takes in a sickly gray kitten and begin to lavish more attention on it than they do the family dog, Billy, I expected a story in the vein of the Bad Kitty books or maybe a wild cat like Angus in the Georgia Nicholson books. This cat though, is something other, something belonging in an X Files or Doctor Who episode than a chapter book.

There's no actual violence, just an ever growing ill at ease mood. The cat becomes more and more of an obsession for the family and less and less catlike in the process. Think of Stitch raiding the refrigerator in Lilo & Stitch where he lets his guard down and Nani sees his extra appendages. This "cat" is like Stitch but with far less good will.

Middle graders and tweens who are beginning to discover Gothic horror, like Poe, will like The Improbable Cat.

Five stars.

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