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Mora Skelton
Illustrated by Janet Wilson
Toronto, Lester Publishing, 1994. 32pp, cloth
$16.95, ISBN 1-895555-52-3.
Distributed by Nelson Canada. CIP

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Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 4-6

Reviewed by Theo Hersh

Volume 22 Number 4
1994 September

Sam is a cat who has lost his home. It is not an easy life. Food is scarce and winter is coming. Resourceful Sam, finding it difficult to survive on the street sneaks into the house of Dee Dee and Mingo, whose owner shoos him out with a broom.

Joanne, the woman's daughter, recognizes Sam as Mr. Saunders' cat and, although Sam bites her when she tries to pick him up, she knows he is lonely. The next day Joanne spots him prowling around the house. She ever so gently picks him up and takes him home.

Storries about cats are innumerable; stories about homeless cats or temperamental cats or homeless and temperamental cats are abundant. Do we need another one? It happens that this one grows on the reader. The story is well told from Sam's point of view. It is neither saccharine nor maudlin, but quite realistic and sympathetic. The writing is solid and sustaining. A child heroine--someone who understands that, although he may snarl and snap at her, Sam needs a loving home--is the appropriate catalyst for Sam's redemption. It is a cat story that works.

Janet Wilson's illustrations, dominated by autumnal orange, are suitably realistic. Sam has quite a distinct personality as depicted by the illustrator. While Mora Skelton tells the story through Sam's eyes, Janet Wilson has us looking at him head on and sympathetically. It is a combination that works.

The one problem with the book is the title. Although Sam sings, it is not the most significant characteristic about him. Another title would have been more appropriate.

On the hole, however, The Baritone Cat is a book that will involve young Iisteners and have them sighing happily as Sam finds a new home.

Theo Hersh is a children's librarian with the Toronto Public Library in Toronto, Ontario

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