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The Catlady    by Dick King-Smith & John Eastwood order for
by Dick King-Smith
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Delicate black-and-white, pen-and-ink sketches by John Eastwood accompany Dick King-Smith's foxy, feline tale of The Catlady. In 1901, Muriel Ponsonby had a total of twenty cats. Ponsonby Place was a very large country house, which had plenty of room for Muriel and all her pets.

Miss Ponsonby talked to her cats, they talked back and called her Mu! The long dining room table nicely accommodated them, each at their own place setting, with their mistress at the head of the table. Though Muriel ate with cutlery, every so often she would lap milk from a bowl in honor of her guests. Muriel believed in reincarnation, and that each of her cats 'had once been people she knew'.

Each cat was assigned a name based on a distinct feature. Percival was named after her father because of a resemblance of whiskers, Florence after her mother. Yet, there were also ordinary cats like Tibbles or Fluff. Percival and Florence were proud of the person their daughter had grown into, saying to each other, '"How fortunate we are, my dear ... to be looked after by Muriel in our old age." "Old age?", mother Florence responded, "I think you tend to forget ... we have been reincarnated into new bodies and that ours are now comparatively young."'

One day a kitten was born on the same day that Queen Victoria died, and Muriel could see that it resembled Her Majesty, so she was assigned a special chair and bed. As the number of cats increased, Miss Ponsonby placed a help wanted ad in the local newspaper, and young Mary Nutt, whose parents had recently died, was taken in by Muriel to help with household chores.

Dick King-Smith, born and raised in Gloucestershire, England, left farming after twenty years, became a teacher and began writing children's books. He is known internationally for his works, including Babe: The Gallant Pig, and was named Children's Author of the Year at the British Book Awards in 1992.

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