Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It's a Secret

Candlewick Press
John Burningham

This is a book about a very ordinary house cat named Malcolm. No, wait, make that an extraordinary cat who only projects the illusion of being an ordinary house cat. By day, he spends much of day sleeping on the couch curled up in a ball, but by night .... why, that's a very different story.

Each night Malcolm dresses himself in fancy duds and steps out on the town with his friends. Marie Elaine, his owner, just happens to catch him leaving one night and discovers his secret. She begs to come with him. He relents, but only if she wears appropriate party attire and "gets small" to fit through the cat door.

Mary Elaine happily meets Malcolm's conditions and they flee through the night - only to be caught red-handed by the neighbor boy, Norman Kowalski. Or course, Norman demands to come as well, and now three of them are nearly late to the secret party. They rush past a pack of dogs, narrowly escaping by dashing up a fire escape and sliding down a wire.

The feline celebration is wonderful, complete with balloons, an accordian player and festive dancing. They share a wonderful midnight feast and the Queen of the Cats presents everyone with small gifts. Nobody wants the party to end, but they reluctantly say their goodbyes and travel homeward. In the morning, Mary Elaine's mother says to her "You look as if you were out all night with the cat." Oh, if only she knew!

What a wonderfully magical story. This takes a seemingly ordinary pet and gives them a secret existance! Beautiful mixed media illustrations complete the fantasy, making this a truly lovely book. What are your own pets up to while you sleep? It's a secret!

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