Author: Kathi Appelt
Lexile Score: 830
Genre: fantasy/ suspense
Maturity level: 5th/6th grade (the man, Gar Face, is incredibly violent and regularly drinks - even to the point of passing out)
Pages: 311 Chapters: 124 Average Chapter Length: 1-3 pages
Theme: destiny, nature, karma, love, time
Project ideas: hmmm
First Line: THERE IS NOTHING lonelier than a cat who has been loved, at least for a while, and then abandoned on the side of the road.
Main Character: Tho kittens, Sabine and Puck, and an old hound, Ranger
Review in 25 words or less: Reads more like a poem; bizarre, complex, and wonderful.
I finally finished this book after having started it at the beginning of summer. Why did it take me three months to read? I can't ignore the fact that it was a struggle to maintain energy in the middle. This isn't to say it wasn't a wonderful book, and I will note that the last 200 pages took me one night.
It is tricky to summarize this book. There are several key players, all within seemingly divergent story lines. There is the cat, who has kittens, and moves in with a dog under the house of an outcast drunk. There are the trees, who play a role in almost every chapter - more in thought than in deed. There are the shape shifters, the birdpeople, the snakewoman, and others. There is One Enormous Alligator of Legendary Size. There is also Gar Face, the drunk hermit hunter. All of these characters had me very confused near the beginning. The stories take place across a thousand years, which also had me thrown for a while. All of these factors would have had me putting the book away early, were it not for the language. Appelt has poured her soul into the words of this book, and they hold you. There is a song the hound sings to the kittens near the beginning of the book that literally had me in tears when I read it aloud to a friend. (I'm going to email the publisher and see if I can reprint it here) She names the trees and rivers, describing them physically, emotionally, and, often, metaphysically too. It is simply gorgeous language, one of the most beautiful books I've read.
Obviously, the array of stories begin to come together near the end and the story becomes a suspenseful, heart pounding race to the finish.
It is, at times, very depressing. On the whole, it is a heavy, saddening tale of love and loss. A book club would have a lot to pore over. Personally, I didn't make a lot of connections to the story, mostly due to the fantastic nature of it and and other worldly-ness I didn't fully grasp. Then again, the hound and the kittens did have me thinking of my daughter several times. This story is delicate, and would be an appropriate book club choice for some advanced 5/6th grade readers looking for a challenge. I would want to have them be sure they were ready for a very serious read.