In this children’s fantasy by author/illustrators de Bruin (Losing David, 2018, etc.) and Decker, an arrogant cat goes on a journey of self-discovery, hoping to regain her lost nine lives.
Feline narrator Rosebud is a reckless bully who’s used up all of her lives by her second birthday. Her only hope is to seek out the Cat Lady Goddess and ask that they be restored. The Goddess agrees to do so only if Rosebud finds and recovers some precious treasures that were stolen by the Supreme Golden Cobra Empress. This means a trip to an action-packed “Otherworld.” With a benign, winged dog as her guide, Rosebud, her sisters, and brother embark on a perilous odyssey, variously threatened and befriended by the authors’ unusual pantheon of strange beings—among them, a giant, fire-spouting, prayer-offering mantis; and a tusked ogre with a sentient rowboat. Along the way, Rosebud (and readers) receives didactic character-building lessons: An ugly toad is poisoning the Otherworld with his Rumor Mill, churning out and posting gossip; a kindly Bigfoot-type character points out that the world would be boring if everyone was alike (“we’ve been given the perfect bodies to suit who we are and what we need”); Rosebud discovers she can feel empathy and love and learns not to “judge someone…because they remind you of someone who did something bad to you.” Rosebud’s redemptive enlightenment isn’t handled with a great deal of subtlety. However, the authors do couch their lessons in an absorbing, vivid framework of mythological elements, illustrated with full-page collage art that offers a striking mix of realistic and fantasy imagery. It’s worth noting, however, that the mild English expletive “bloody” is used frequently, and the troublemaking toad describes a snake princess and her sisters as dressing like “street walkers,” without elaboration.
A work of juvenile fiction with heavy-handed messaging that’s mitigated by intriguing artwork and imaginative modern and mythological elements.