Cat lovers, in particular, will want to take note of Inga Moore’s new picture book, the endearing tale of Captain Cat.
A world-traveling trader, Captain Cat has earned his nickname from his crew, given that he has more cats than sailors on board his ship. He loves to settle down in his cabin with his cats while searching his maps for the next adventure. He’s traded many a precious jewel for a cat, for which other traders have mocked him. (“No wonder he never makes any money!”)
After landing on a remote island after a storm, Captain Cat and his felines meet a plucky and welcoming young queen. She and her islanders have never seen a cat before. She’s pleased and invites the captain and all his cats to stay. Even better, she discovers the cats are capable of ridding the island of the pesky rats that have plagued them. She offers Captain Cat diamonds, pearls and rubies if he’ll leave his cats on the island to keep the rats in check. When Captain Cat’s fellow traders eventually find out, they head to the island with exquisite wares for trading, only to be handed “the finest our island has to offer,” a basket of newborn kittens. Disgusted, they return them to Captain Cat.
There’s more to this curious tale, which delights in its unexpected twists. Just when you suspect one thing will happen, Moore surprises you with another, even throwing in a bit of chummy commentary, spoken directly to the reader. When Captain Cat decides to leave the island with the queen’s treasures, Moore writes, “But before you cry, ‘Oh! How could he? Didn’t he love his cats?’ let me tell you. . . .” And at another of the story’s unexpected turns, she writes, “But the story doesn’t end here. Not at all. If anything, this is where it gets really good.”
Moore’s sprawling mixed media spreads create a vivid, detailed world, and the quirky story charms.
Dare I say: It’s the cat’s pajamas.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books.