In Martini’s debut children’s book, illustrated by Mongiardo (Cosmo’s Crave and Guppy Gall, 2012), a cat tells her story of her life at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City.
Ever since 1932, when a stray cat took up residence in the famous Algonquin Hotel, there has always been a “resident feline” there. Actor John Barrymore named the first one “Hamlet,” and ever since, all the Algonquin’s male cats have had that name, and the females, for unknown reasons, have all been named “Matilda.” Here, the most recent Matilda speaks for herself and tells her story. (Matilda is based on a real cat, but the Algonquin staffers in the book are wholly fictional.) As any good cat would be, Matilda is entirely pleased with her situation: she lives in a hotel “which is in the center of New York City, which is in the center of the world which means that I am in the center of it all,” she says. When visitors arrive, “I greet them by saying, ‘Welcome to my castle—I am your queen.’ ” She goes on to introduce readers to her underlings, including the doorman, concierge, manager, and her personal assistant Hadley (an homage to real-life caretaker Alice De Almeida). Readers learn of Matilda’s daily routine around the hotel, accompanied by Mongiardo’s lively line drawings, which often supply wry, silent commentary. For example, when Matilda says, “I ensure that our guests enjoy themselves,” the illustration shows a dismayed guest dropping his martini as the cat jumps into his lap. Special events include Matilda’s birthday party, featuring cake and a fashion show (on a catwalk, of course). The feline also describes some of the history of the Algonquin and its famous Round Table of writers and actors. Overall, Martini’s text and Mongiardo’s illustrations capture the particular charm of cats well and nicely evoke Matilda’s big personality and her expectation of worship. Young readers may also enjoy learning something about what goes on in big hotels, such as how a doorman does his job and how a concierge helps guests. The book also offers additional pages (“About the Algonquin Hotel” and “About the Algonquin Cat”) that give useful background on the hotel’s history, the Algonquin cat tradition, and how children may connect with Matilda online.
An appealing, humorous introduction to a legendary hotel through a cat’s eyes.