In this debut children’s chapter book, a piano-playing cat who loves the great composers sails to Europe, embarking on memorable adventures.
Visby, a mostly black tuxedo cat, lives in New York City with the Svenssons, a Swedish family. Strolling along the waterfront, he follows a plank, finds himself aboard a ship, and decides to stay, especially when he discovers a piano lounge. Visby loves nothing better than listening to or performing classical music (he uses his tail to reach the farthest notes). After hearing him play, the captain hires Visby as entertainer for the voyage. (Eventually, he calls the Svenssons to let them know.) He makes friends aboard ship and plays appropriate music along the way; in Barcelona, for example, he chooses Spanish composer Manuel de Falla’s “Ritual Fire Dance.” On land, Visby has a wonderful time seeing the sights, especially those related to his favorite composers; he learns and imparts an abundance of information. In Tallinn, Estonia, Visby meets Essti, a beautiful white cat with long, soft fur—and a violin case. They play an Estonian piece by Arvo Pärt together and both are smitten, but Visby must continue his voyage. Arriving at Gotland island, he gets several surprises: a town called Visby, a visit from the Svenssons, and best of all, Essti. His trip is over, but his life with Essti is just beginning. In her book, Alitowski combines a travel narrative, musicology, and a love story in an entertaining mix. While there’s much educational material on cities, composers, and more, the tale doesn’t feel didactic thanks to Visby’s passion for music and general delight in learning. He’s a charming presence with a kind heart. A German man who at first mocks the idea of a piano-playing cat is overcome by the reality: “You play like angel and I’m sorry.” About an unpleasant woman who dislikes Visby, the feline simply thinks, “Oh, she’s a troubled soul.” The illustrations by Villeneuve (Joëlle va Chez le Docteur, 2018, etc.) are a bit cartoonish and anthropomorphized but are fun and have verve.
Passionate about music, sweet, humorous, and gently educational, with a special interest for cat lovers.