A day at the zoo is interrupted by a business call that sends Dad off to the office, leaving his son to have fun on his own.
The boy wanders about, noticing how sad the animals seem in contrast to the happy families all around. After a face-painting makes him look like the titular “long-haired cat-boy cub,” he finds an empty cage, curls up inside, and falls asleep. He awakens on a magical ship helmed by Habakkuk, an eccentric human who is on a mission to kidnap animals from zoos and return them to their natural habitats. The little boy provides lots of information for Habakkuk’s notebook about his new identity, including his need for frequent games and stories and his dislike of important work-related phone calls. He helpfully gives the address of his habitat and is duly returned home. He confronts his parents in his new guise and provides them with the notebook for guidance for establishing a much improved father-son relationship. There is underlying longing as the boy narrates his own tale without anger or bitterness and makes imaginative and strange events seem perfectly reasonable. Basil’s colorful, double-paged illustrations capture the emotions and the magic and provide lots of visual surprises. The narrator, his parents, and Habakkuk all have light skin.
Translated from Hebrew, this Israeli import is a poignant cautionary tale told with kindness and humor. (Picture book. 4-8)