Adult author and former New York Times reporter Salamon places a cat at the center of her beloved city in her first effort for young readers.
First seen as a straggly stray, hungry and discouraged, Pretty Boy is the central figure in a rambling storyline that crams in too many characters and coincidences but not enough child appeal. The cast includes two shopkeepers, three dogs and their walker, a family of four that has recently moved to the city and an elderly cello player. The tone is matter-of-fact (though the animals can speak to one another), and the plot unfolds predictably. Pretty Boy finds a home—eventually—and some of the people connect in meaningful ways. The friendly dogs, Maggie, Roxie and Henry, outshine the feline hero with snappy dialogue and distinct personalities, while Sam, aka the Cello Man, is the most sympathetic and interesting of the humans. Full-color, single-page illustrations and vignettes with a pleasantly naïve look appear throughout, reflecting the action. Unfortunately they run the risk of limiting the audience further, as some readers may find them childish.
An odd mixture of animal fantasy, music appreciation, sentimental story and (minor) problem novel, this bland concoction is clearly intended to charm but just as clearly misses the mark. (Fantasy. 8-11)