CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 19 . . . . May 11, 2007
Fourth in “The Cat Pack” series, Polo's Mother, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor has something for all different reading interests and levels.
In the story, Polo tells his brother Marco that he longs for his mother and the “soft-warm, dark-dank, furry-purry, milk-smelling something” that belongs only to her. Every full moon, they leave the safety of the Neals' home and go to the loft, home to the Club of Mysteries. One day, Geraldine, Marco and Polo's mother, shows up. They must each solve a mystery, determined by the Club Leader, Texas Jake. Only if they solve their mysteries do they gain membership into the Club of Mysteries.
From their whimsical names to their combined human and animal characteristics, the cats in this book are memorable. Marco can "reeeeead," Polo is nimble, and Texas Jake has an inferiority complex. By the end, he demands that everyone call him "Lord of the Loft," "King of the Alley," "Commander in Chief," "Exalted Cat Supreme," and "Grand Pooh-bah." Texas Jake does not respond kindly to Geraldine's strong personality, keen sense of fairness, worldliness, and sharp wit.
Geraldine is perhaps the most dynamic and intriguing character in this book. Though she is a wanderer and a temporary member of the Club of Mysteries, she still leaves a lasting impression:
Musicality is a recurring theme in Polo's Mother, both in language—“The rain fell, rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat, on the roof. It dropped, pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat, from the eaves onto the soft ground below”—and literally as well. Each time one of the cats attempts to solve a mystery, the Cat Quartet pipes up with an original tune and equally original lyrics.
Naylor, in several other instances, also recalls the familiar nuances of nursery and other playground rhymes.
To add to the drama and adventure of this cast of cats, black and white illustrations by Alan Daniel are interspersed throughout. Although a higher print quality would do justice to these sketches, they nonetheless capture the essence of the scenarios they depict without distracting from the momentum of the narrative.
Polo's Mother is a charming story of friendship, adventure, suspense, leadership, storytelling, respect, and longing. Readers will likely enjoy the reassuring ending, embedded truths, and memorable images that emerge through playful and vibrant language.
Andrea Szilagyi is a graduate student studying children's literature at the University of British Columbia.
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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.