This collaboration by a respected author of literary fiction and her niece, an educator and writer of poetry for children, is an odd mix of talking cats, oceangoing adventure and mystical events.
Slender, gray Anton and large, black Cecil are not much alike, but, readers are told, the brothers love one another and enjoy their mostly peaceful life as stray cats in a seaside town. Pensive Anton enjoys listening to the sailors singing in the local saloon; adventurous Cecil prefers to pace along the dock, seeking sustenance and occasionally spending a day on board a fishing boat. Their low-key lives change dramatically when Anton is taken to sea against his will, and Cecil sets out to find him and bring him home. The plot is carefully woven, the vocabulary rich and distinctive, and the characters engaging (particularly Hieronymus, a hilariously loquacious mouse). Unfortunately, the overall effect is confusing rather than charming. The decision not to explain a key turning point may leave readers perplexed and even troubled, while other details fall just a bit too short of the fantastic to seem truly magical or rely on exceedingly unlikely coincidences.
Cat lovers will be sorry to see Anton and Cecil suffer indifference and outright abuse from sailors and pirates, as well as facing other dangers, but they’re still not likely to care overmuch about the eventual resolution. (Fantasy. 9-12)