Cash’s latest is plagued with problems similar to those facing his previous two children’s offerings, awkward syntax and poor scansion being the worst of these, but he also adds a new one to the mix: a thin, if enthusiastic plot.
Rhyming verse tells the tale of Cat and Mouse, who travel together, singing as they ride their bandicoot and camel, respectively, through the desert. Cat has a score to settle with Del Moore the snake, who stole his catnip ball when he was just a kitten. But before a showdown can take place, disaster strikes: The bandicoot trips, and the four travelers wind up precariously hanging from a cliff. Snake is the only passer-by who hears their cries and stops to help. “Snake offered Cat his tail end. / Out the Cat’s paw did extend. / Del Moore said, / ‘Let’s just be friends!’ / And the Cat gave a smile.” Instead of allowing readers to infer the moral offered by this pat ending about second chances, the author supplies his own, which has little to do with the story. Nash does his best to meet the underlying good intentions of the text. From his palette to the clothing his characters wear, the illustrations have a retro feel that suits the Old West setting. His characters have a Richard Scarry look to them, especially the cat.
With phrases seemingly thrown in because they rhyme, not because they advance any sort of plot, this is one to skip. (Picture book. 4-7)