A retold but intact version of the familiar tale, given the customary early-18th-century setting in illustrations crowded with figures and period detail.
Pinkney retells the tale in plain, measured language: “ ‘Have some boots made for me,’ [the cat] said, ‘and give me a strong sack with a drawstring. I just might be able to help you find your fortune.’ ” With a few minor changes or additions (the ogre, for instance, is a “rich and evil sorcerer” depicted as human), the story puts passive young Benjamin into the paws of a feline impresario who orchestrates his rise to fame, fortune and a royal wedding to the equally inert Princess Daniella. Identified in the author’s afterword as a “black-and-white silver-tabby British shorthair,” the cat cuts a properly self-confident, swashbuckling figure as he inserts himself into a claustrophobically populous royal entourage bursting with sumptuously patterned silks, floating ribbons, airy plumage and ruffles. He goes on to trick the sorcerer in a confrontation (depicted in part in an awkwardly placed gatefold) and to become prime minister. Nor are his adventures over, as a nautical scene on the rear endpaper hints.
Handsomely turned out, as can be expected…but Pinkney himself notes that he studied over 20 illustrated editions of the story before producing one of his own, and he offers nothing particularly fresh. (Picture book/folk tale. 7-10)