The Cat Who Wouldn't Come Inside is a unique, quirky and delightful book. Most notable are the illustrations by artist and author Cynthia von Buhler. Each spread features a diorama with a dollhouse and two characters, a cat and a woman, made of Sculpey clay, paint and homemade costumes. (For a sneak peek, check out the author's website at www.comeinsidekitty.com.) The story is a simple, cumulative tale. A cat appears on a woman's doorstep and refuses to come inside running away, despite coaxing. The woman keeps trying to lure the cat inside with various temptations: milk, tuna, a catnip mouse, a soft rug, a ball of yarn, etc. The cat enjoys each of these things, but keeps leaving.

The woman is so determined that she builds a wall and a fireplace on her porch and furnishes it with an armchair, curtains, knitting needles and more. In the end, the area is so cozy and the cat is so at home that he finally invites the woman to come inside his place. If you crave detail and intricacy (and I do!), you'll love looking at the many fine details in each scene, including candelabras and lit candles, fine china, books, wallpaper and luxurious rugs. The season is winter, and the snow is made, according to von Buhler, from five different types of artificial snow, including spray snow and cotton batting. What's more, she created falling snow with the help of Photoshop and her computer.

The publisher bills this as a book for preschoolers, but I recommend it for all ages. In fact, I think older children are more likely to relish the fine artwork and realize the great efforts required to create it.

Von Buhler adds a note at the end about the real-life inspiration for her story a stray cat that appeared on her own doorstep and did not come inside her house for four years. Finally, though, the poor cat became ill, only to come inside and die in her arms one night. This is certainly a sad footnote, but the book itself is anything but gloomy. Young children will love this simple, welcoming story, and older children and adults alike will marvel at von Buhler's considerable artistic talents. Alice Cary writes from Groton, Massachusetts.

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