Miss Petitfour is a quirky, creative, charming, magical cat lover.
The narrator speaks directly to readers in a schoolmarmish sort of voice, first introducing the heroine and each of her 16 cats. Each odd, whimsical adventure involves Miss Petitfour’s ability to use carefully selected tablecloths as a means of flying around her village, with her cats forming a kind of kite tail or ballast. There is nothing normal about this village or any of its inhabitants. There are handsome, giant-sized shop signs and delightfully named villagers who are perfectly accepting of Miss Petitfour’s aeronautic abilities. Michaels employs a rhythmic syntax that provides long descriptive lists of everything from the items in a jumble sale through the rare stamps in an album to silly book titles. The names of each of the 16 cats are repeated again and again. Woven through the tales are instructions on the techniques of storytelling. Examples of digressions and key phrases that move the story along, such as “fortunately” and “then one day,” are explained and demonstrated. A multitude of words that tickle the tongue—“gesticulating,” “propitious”—are defined within the stories. These words and phrases are flagged with italics or uppercase letters and printed in colored ink. Block’s charming, full-color illustrations complement the tales in a decidedly mid-20th-century modern style.
An homage to classic fantasies for an audience willing to suspend all disbelief and just go along for the ride. (Fantasy. 8-11)