Aaron Shepard has been fascinated by this story since childhood. He is the author of many folktales, including The Sea King's Daughter: A Russian Legend, The Baker's Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale, The Maiden of Northland: A Hero Tale of Finland, and most recently, The Princess Mouse: A Tale of Finland. He lives in the Los Angeles area. Kristin Sorra has been drawing and painting for as long as she can remember. She is also the illustrator of The Three Billygoats Gruff and Mean Calypso Joe by Cathrene Valente Youngquist and currently lives in New York with her husband, a fellow artist. Kristin has no cats, but she does have a dog named Desi who purrs in his sleep.
Gr 1-5-Peter Black, who "loved to tell wild stories," replaces the unnamed sexton in this expanded spin on Joseph Jacobs's spooky tale. The young man works at the Church of St. Thomas the Believer, where he has several unnerving encounters with a group of cats. Each time, he relates the tales to Father Allen, who is reluctant to believe him. After Peter witnesses a feline funeral, the officiating cat instructs him, "Tell Tom Tildrum- that Tim Toldrum's- dead." When Peter later recounts the events to Father Allen, the priest's pet jumps up upon hearing these words and declares, "Then I'm the King o' the Cats" and runs away. In addition to personalizing the characters, Shepard stretches the events to the standard folktale cycle of three evenings. Less dramatic than the original, this story still builds nicely and creates a fuller sense of the alternate life of the cats. Sorra's single- and double-page oil scenes, dark in tone, have the look of some animated films, with square-faced, flat-figured humans and almost stern-looking cats. The somber, shadowy views befit the nighttime scenario. A seasoned storyteller, Shepard retains the basic scheme and a bit of wording from Jacobs, crafting a smooth narrative that will please listeners, storytellers, and readers. A prefatory note promises a reader's theater script and background information on the story at his very substantial Web site.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.