Butler's first picture book is a tease: A mystery cat appears outside young Anna's window one snowy night, and it is an old soul. ""I am a cat with stories to tell"" is the mute refrain that radiates from it. As Anna sleeps, the cat communicates its tales to her: ""I will tell you stories of ancient Egypt, ""I will tell you stories of the long silk road from China,"" ""I will tell you stories of the cats who watched the rise of great cathedrals,"" ""and chased along the corridors of court. Painted, chiselled, carved and drawn, still they purr silently."" Silent is right--among the nine fabulous lives hinted at, no elaborations are forthcoming. Butler provides only the barest snippets of connection, leaving readers curious and unsatisfied. Smith's evocative artwork makes a sumptuous first impression, but carries its own set of problems, not the least of which is a blond-haired girl in Native American dress just outside a settlement of tepees in the Plains Indian style; the landscape includes desert cliffs and cacti. The use of the cat collapses history, making time an almost tangible concept, but the expressive notion hovers, disappointingly incomplete.