A young Protector cat faces a tough challenge when an evil rat threatens her building in this novel for middle-grade readers.
Chief is one tough cat. As a Protector, he descends from the cats of ancient Egypt, with special skills to ward off evil, safeguard humans, and kill vermin. He’s a trusted partner to Sam, 37, a maintenance man in a Bronx motel. The team impresses the building’s owner, who gives them a big promotion to an uptown high-rise complex where Chief makes lots of new friends, including other buildings’ cats and some alley cats. None are Protectors, but they do look after their territories, and the local rats know their place—the sewers. When Chief meets the lovely Persian Ms. Charlene, they soon have a litter of kittens. Most find homes, but they get to keep the black-and-white runt, called Mouse. Despite her small size and fluffiness, Mouse shows her father’s aptitude for safeguarding the neighborhood, and Pops trains her as a Junior Protector. But Bragar, a rat made evil and crazy by cruel scientists, escapes and decides to take over the apartment complex. When Chief is taken out, Mouse must fulfill her calling as a Protector and battle Bragar and his minions—but she’ll need to forge an unlikely alliance that includes pigeons, a canary, a fancy mouse, and rats who know the value of respect. (Sensitive readers, no cats are permanently harmed, and the book doesn’t dwell on their injuries.) DeGrado (The 13th Month, 2015, etc.) gives his good-versus-evil story some thought-provoking undertones, such as concern for the environment (“green” cats versus harmful poisons); Bragar’s radicalization isn’t unlike that of a marginalized jihadi. The animal world of this novel feels as well-rounded, varied, and rich as any human community. But despite its seriousness, the novel is also charming, fun, and entertaining. Its many wonderful songs (alley cats sing the blues, for example) absolutely beg for transformation into an animated movie. The satisfying ending will have readers cheering out loud—and waiting hopefully for the next book in this series.
An exciting story for animal lovers about courage, resilience, and working together.