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. Volume VIII Number 14 . . . . March 15, 2002
"If you please, Tommy Douglas!" Miss Wilkinson would say when it was time for dinner. Miss Wilkinson was an old lady with crumpled skin and bright blue eyes, and she lived all by herself except for a small black cat. The cat's name was Tommy Douglas. Ever since he was a kitten, his eyes had glowed with brilliant orange fire.
A retired school teacher, Miss Wilkinson lives in a small house that she shares with her beloved cat, Tommy Douglas, whose eyes resemble the orange eyes found in British Short Hairs breed. The two have developed a routine, part of which involves the cat's jumping up on Miss Wilkinson's bed at night and purring. As the years go by, Tommy Douglas gradually slows down, and, after his seventeenth birthday, he becomes ill and dies on Miss Wilkinson's lap as she holds him. The elderly lady buries her treasured pet in her garden and plants a rose bush on top of the cat's grave. Keeping herself very busy with her many volunteer activities, Miss Wilkinson does not really take time to grieve, but she does observe that the rose bush is not flowering. However, when summer arrives and most of her activities stop, Miss Wilkinson realizes how lonely she is. One night, as she is sleeping, she is awakened by a sound. While she initially thinks that there may be an intruder in the house, she recognizes it is as the purr of a cat, but she can see no animal. Instead, she senses the pressure of something moving up the bed, something which purred in her ear as Tommy Douglas had done. The next morning, when Miss Wilkinson looks out into her garden, she sees her rose bush bearing two brilliant orange roses.
Anyone who has had a pet to which they became emotionally attached will respond to Miss Wilkinson's emotions and find solace in the story's comforting conclusion. While the storyline is most worthy, Reczuch's illustrations add layers of meaning. Not only does the book have end papers, but the front and back end papers are different. The opening end papers reveal an empty living room bathed in diffused sunlight, the silhouette of a cat behind the curtains (or is it a ghost?). The closing end papers reveal a brightly lit garden in flower. Reczuch's illustrations are also quite revelatory of character, both of the vigorous senior, Miss Wilkinson, and the cat, Tommy Douglas. Reczuch is particularly effective in capturing the various postures cats assume plus their way of looking through half closed eyes. The sweaters, dresses, running shoes and slippers in which Reczuch garbs Miss Wilkinson are appropriate to a senior without being stereotypic. The wordless, closing double page spread of Miss Wilkinson sitting in her sunshine filled garden is a wonderful touch as is the final little illustration of a ghost cat languidly sprawled beneath a flowering rose bush.
Owned by Cyrus, a British Short Hair cat, Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and YA literature in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.