Monday, December 16, 2013

Travelers’ Tails

It was a total surprise to discover that CITY CAT had been reviewed in the New York Times a couple weeks ago... and fantastic review to boot! Here is a snippet:

"Banks’s verse narrative is as elegant and lithe as her subject, full of poetic descriptions and playful, sophisticated vocabulary. 

“City cat, strutting down the boulevards,
taking in the city sights.
The skyline, pulsing, bathed in light.
An obelisk, a graceful arch,
a gilded bridge, a sprawling park.” 
Castillo, who has worked with Banks before, on “That’s Papa’s Way” (2009), creates illustrations that are a good match for the author’s evocative language. Her street scenes, with all their architectural detail, have the intentionally rough, textural look of lino prints, and her palette is an attractive and fashionable combination of rich neutrals and bright reds and mustard yellows. In all, “City Cat” may appeal as much to parents as to children, but there’s no harm in that. One advantage human travelers have over beasts: If you have to pack a suitcase, you can make room in it for this book as a reminder of why it is we go sightseeing in the first place. 

Many thanks to Sarah Harrison Smith for such a lovely, thoughtful write up!

CITY CAT gets around

My new book City Cat, written by the wonderful Kate Banks, is now finally out in the world! (I began this project back in 2009, so it's been a long long wait :)) We are to happy to have received a number of kind reviews over the last few weeks, including a surprise write-up from The New York Times (more on that in another post)!

Here's what everyone had to say:

Kirkus Reviews: 
"A black cat serves as European tour guide for child readers in this offering from Banks and Castillo. The cat and a family of travelers begin in Rome. Outstanding backmatter later tells readers that the famed Coliseum is home to over 200 stray cats that are protected by Roman law. But before reaching the informational paratext, readers follow the cat from one European locale to another, right alongside the family on holiday. The family seems almost superfluous, even intrusive to the cat’s adventure. First, the cat stows away in the back of the family’s car and ends up in Marseille, and it then goes on to Barcelona and five other destinations before returning to Rome. Banks’ graceful writing describes the sites visited through sensory detail, while Castillo’s soft, yet detailed art deftly fills in narrative gaps by showing how the cat gets from place to place. Some legs of the journey may seem a bit implausible, and it’s quite coincidental that the cat and the family keep turning up in the same places. By book’s end, the nod to the child asleep in his bed and the cat “curled up in a statue’s arm” nearby feels rather forced. Nevertheless, the art presents a veritable feast for the eyes from page to page, and Banks’ narrative is characteristically well-paced and lyrical. A lovely, if unlikely, feline journey." (Picture book. 4-8)

Publishers Weekly: 
"Banks’s verse sees some of the great cities of Europe through the travels of an independent black cat. Making her way by cat, boat, bike, and bus, City Cat romps through the Coliseum, nestles under one of Notre Dame’s gargoyles, and pads across the Bridge of Sighs. The scenery described isn’t pinned to a specific location: “City Cat is on the run from the morning mist/ and the baffled sun hidden by the fog./ She squints into a smoky sky/ and sees a tower rising high.” It’s up to Castillo, who illustrated Banks’s That’s Papa’s Way, to supply the missing information, drawing what’s visible in the fog: Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. In the absence of a character to know more deeply or a narrative to tie the book together, the meticulously drawn spreads take center stage. Castillo takes no shortcuts, drafting each city’s distinctive architecture in soft, pleasing lines. Though there are parallels with Banks’s The Cat Who Walked Across France, this feline isn’t trying to get home; she’s happy to wander Europe’s plazas and cathedral squares, and to have readers trail along." Ages 3–7. (Nov.)
School Library Journal: 
"City Cat travels through Europe, paralleling a human family’s vacation. Rhyming verse follows the stray as she hitches rides and wanders through Italy, France, Spain, England, the Netherlands, and Germany. Flags dot the various spreads, giving clues to the locations, which are further described in the endnotes. Lyrical verse follows an interesting rhyming scheme and incorporates rich vocabulary, and lush illustrations capture the atmosphere of each location with plenty of details to invite close study. Children will enjoy the fanciful adventures of this intrepid feline as she explores rooftops, bridges, and ancient ruins, especially when compared to the rather boring, grounded meanderings of the human tourists. However, not much happens in the story and the connection between the cat and the family is not clear. Overall, this is a pretty book for armchair travelers and cat lovers." –Suzanne Myers Harold, formerly at Multnomah County Library System, Portland, OR (Dec.)

Thanks to Kirkus,  PW, and SLJ for the nice write-ups!