An appealing, humorous introduction to a legendary hotel through a cat’s eyes.

Matilda The Algonquin Cat

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.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-942545-44-6

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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MORNING GIRL

Like the quiet lap of waves on the sand, the alternating introspections of two Bahamian island children in 1492. Morning Girl and her brother Star Boy are very different: she loves the hush of pre-dawn while he revels in night skies, noise, wind. In many ways they are antagonists, each too young and subjective to understand the other's perspective—in contrast to their mother's appreciation for her brother. In the course of these taut chapters concerning such pivotal events as their mother's losing a child, the arrival of a hurricane, or Star Boy's earning the right to his adult name, they grow closer. In the last, Morning Girl greets— with cordial innocence—a boat full of visitors, unaware that her beautifully balanced and textured life is about to be catalogued as ``very poor in everything,'' her island conquered by Europeans. This paradise is so intensely and believably imagined that the epilogue, quoted from Columbus's diary, sickens with its ominous significance. Subtly, Dorris draws parallels between the timeless chafings of sibs set on changing each other's temperaments and the intrusions of states questing new territory. Saddening, compelling—a novel to be cherished for its compassion and humanity. (Fiction. 8+)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 1992

ISBN: 1-56282-284-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1992

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