A debut children’s tale of a traumatized girl’s journey to discover her own special gifts.
“She was only four when the accident happened, but she remembered her mother’s lap.” With this haunting sentence, Bell hints at a likely explanation for why her main character doesn’t speak. The author wisely leaves that part of the story dangling, though, creating suspense as she explores the world of Molly, an 8-year-old orphan who can’t, or won’t, talk. Molly begins to believe what she hears people saying about her—that a cat got her tongue. But even though she doesn’t speak, she hears more than most other people do. Like Dr. Doolittle, she can communicate with animals, and she finds friends in spiders, dogs, and cats. She partners with cocker spaniel Rusty and black Labrador Tony to track down the cat who stole her tongue. Bell’s depictions of Rusty’s antics are captivating; for example, he loves the smell of the garbage dump and makes a game out of distracting a farmer who’s angry at the trio for sleeping in his barn. Rusty also explains that cats talk to him: “They call me names when I chase them. FLAP-EARS, SLOBBER FACE, STINKY FUR-BALL.” With the help of her animal friends, Molly unlocks her ability to talk and solves the mystery of why the town’s cats have been disappearing. Overall, this book offers a fun glimpse into the world of animals as humans imagine it, and Martin’s black-and-white drawings, which appear to have been done in charcoal or pencil, gently add dimension to Bell’s words. However, some of its characterizations fall short. For example, the author predictably depicts Max, the cat that Molly believes took her tongue, as rough but with a heart of gold. Similarly, Molly’s aunt feels like a caricature of a heartless relative stuck with a child she doesn’t want. Still, these flaws only minimally detract from the overall story.
An often delightful, unexpected coming-of-age tale that unlocks the story behind a youngster’s silence.