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Volume VIII Number 1 . . . . September 7, 2001
Mr. Layton could see two eyes glowing in the dark. "Here, kitty," he said softly, as he reached out. Just then, Mrs. Layton returned with a flashlight and shone it under the porch. Andrew saw black fur like Sarah's. Then he saw a long white stripe down the animal's back. It raised its tail. Mr. Layton howled. "Run!" shrieked Mr. Layton, and Andrew did.Sarah, an indoor cat, suddenly disappears when someone leaves the door open. Andrew begins an exhaustive search of the neighborhood with his friend Josh, Josh's dog Rex and a host of other characters they meet along the way. Several cases of mistaken identity and a good deal of commotion later, Sarah is found under the table at home.
This large print short chapter book speeds along at a good pace through the episodic plot. Readers will laugh at the antics of Andrew and his friends as they dash from one false sighting of Sarah to the next, leaving disaster in their wake. The chase comes to an abrupt halt as numerous cats charge through the open door of a house. However, we are not shown the results of this intrusion, leaving the plot with an unsatisfying loose end: "She opened the door and in raced Rex followed by all the neighborhood cats. Then it started to rain."
Another part of the plot is underdeveloped (Josh asks for Andrew's help to think of a way to earn money for his mother's birthday gift), and one wonders if it is needed at all. Once mentioned in Chapter 2, this complication isn't referred to again until Chapter 7. This final chapter seems to have been tacked on at the end to accommodate the earlier subplot. The story effectively ends in Chapter 6, with the discovery of Sarah under the table and with Andrew's concluding statement: "Well, Dad...she is an indoor cat."
For a book directed at newly independent readers, I found the use of multiple viewpoints distracting. The story opens from Sarah's outlook, but switches to each new character as s/he enters the plot. Also, though it is categorized as a "Level Three First Flight" reader by the publisher, (for grades 2-4) the minimally challenging vocabulary, repetition, short sentences and generously illustrated chapters are more typically suited to the previous level in this series (grades 1-3).
Gillian Richardson, who lives in BC, is a former teacher-librarian and a published children's writer of fiction and nonfiction.
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