A cat and her boy explore life around their orchard home and get stuck in a terrific storm in this steampunkish debut adventure by veteran artist Hall.
When adventurous Andy returns home from school in the city, Susie the cat couldn’t be more delighted. The cat and boy journey around the orchard as they prepare for their weekend adventures together, visiting a horse barn and lake before heading home for dinner. The next day, Andy’s friend Katie arrives, racing with them in her steam-powered wheelchair. After returning home with her, Andy is excited to explore her father’s steam-power plant, but the colorful giant turbines there distract him from getting home on time. In this case, the delay is a treacherous one, as a storm is rolling in. Rather than go home on the road as he promised, Andy takes a shortcut through the woods. The blinding storm almost puts Andy and Susie in an unsafe situation—but Andy’s parents arrive just in time. Told in rhyming text from Susie’s perspective, the tale meanders through the characters’ lives rather than building the tension of the approaching storm, which resolves in two short pages. The rhyme scheme is also inconsistent in places; it’s typically AABBCC, but in places, it changes to ABAB, and the rhythm changes throughout. However, the joy here is in exploring Andy’s world, beautifully depicted in Hall’s full-scale paintings. From the first page, Susie will capture imaginations with the goggles she wears, and her relationship with Andy is sure to please young readers, especially animal lovers. Their world is populated with strange, wonderful contraptions: Andy’s school bus flies with tall-ship sails, Katie’s wheelchair spouts steam and her leg braces glow, and the local beekeeper wears a tin hat to prevent bee stings. Children will likely be intrigued by the crystal city in the final pages and wonder whether there’s more of Andy and Susie’s world to explore.
An unevenly written but fantastically illustrated children’s fantasy.