A pleasant cat-loving elderly woman and her grumpy neighbor, a fishmonger who does not love the feline crowd, find friendship nonetheless.
Mr. Modiano’s fish market on Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv is popular with stray cats looking for discards, despite the cold welcome. “Messy, meowing, useless cats!” he complains. Each night he returns home to find Mrs. Spiegel’s two cats, Ketzie and Gatito, outside her door. Apartment-building rules dictate “Just One Cat,” so Gatito sleeps in the hallway at night. Mr. Modiano complains, “Your cats bring more cats!” She invites him for tea each night, and he always refuses: “Lo, lo, lo” (no, no, no). The fishmonger and his neighbor continue this daily ritual until Ketzie disappears, leaving Mrs. Spiegel worried sick. Mr. Modiano, despite his ailurophobia, sets out to find the missing Ketzie and returns with a newfound willingness to not only share tea, but the care of little puss Gatito. The Israeli backdrop for this sweet scenario is enhanced by the diversity of the two characters, whose names hint at both Eastern European and Mediterranean heritage. Stampler’s charming narrative deftly employs the traditional motif of three while upholding a level of suspense. Carabelli’s sunny palette and energetic perspectives add zing.
In the end, readers will join in the smiles all around. (Picture book. 3-6)