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KATJE, THE WINDMILL CAT by Gretchen Woelfle


by Gretchen Woelfle & illustrated by Nicola Bayley

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-7636-1347-9
Publisher: Candlewick

A tale of feline heroism from 15th-century Holland. Katje the cat leads a near-perfect life with Nico the miller, until he marries. Lena is clearly not a cat person, and when infant Anneke is born, Katje, despite obvious mutual affection between baby and cat, is banished to the mill. But when a heavy rainstorm causes the dike to break, it’s the loyal cat that dashes to Anneke as the floodwaters rise, rocking the cradle to keep it from being swamped as it’s swept through the flooded town. Needless to say, Katje’s billet is assured from that time on. Woelfle’s tale is told in a stately storyteller’s voice. The third-person narrative is filtered through the cat’s point-of-view, illuminating the special relationship between human and cat. Bayley’s (All for the Newborn Baby, 2000, etc.) delicate watercolor pencil illustrations are full of detail, harkening back to the medieval Dutch and Flemish painters. These full-color illustrations are complemented by Delft blue tiles at the left of each page, the tiny details of which echo the action in the main illustrations—a dead mouse is depicted with tiny feet in the air on one tile, while the accompanying picture shows a determined Katje chasing mice through the mill. It would be an altogether pleasing piece of bookmaking except for the choice of a Calligraphic typeface, whose slanting, ornate letters are presumably meant to heighten the historic feel of the work but which is ultimately hard on the eyes and detracts from the overall design. A pity, but the work overall represents a nicely done alternative to the many dog-as-hero stories for children. An author’s note follows the story, detailing the historical events that inspired the story. (Picture book. 4-8)