In Romanelli’s debut children’s novel, a young New Mexican and a talking feline go on a spiritual adventure.
Daisy May is a special cat. Not only can she talk, but she also has the gift of precognition. But although she leads a comfortable life in New York City, she feels unfulfilled. When her owner’s 9-year-old granddaughter, Philomena, invites her to come to Lamy, New Mexico, to investigate a mystery, the cat decides to put her psychic powers to good use. Philomena is an adventurous, independent child whose paleontologist father is often away from home. She’s been keeping watch on a painting of a Native American man that hangs in a Lamy saloon, whose details—such as the number of teepees in the background—have been changing. She takes Daisy May to meet her artist friend, Noshi, whose latest work, an image of a Native American princess, has been similarly mutable. Daisy May, Philomena, and Noshi declare themselves to be “Imagination Warriors,” and they find that they’re able to use the power of thought to enter Noshi’s painting; inside, they find conduits to other pictures and paths to other places and times. But will they ever figure out what’s going on with the pictures and make their way home? Romanelli portrays a world full of wonder and plays up the characters’ embrace of imagination. Daisy May and Philomena are full of inquisitiveness, not skepticism, which will appeal to a middle-grade audience. Romanelli effectively portrays imagination as a means for dealing with problems, such as loneliness or the feeling of being tied down by circumstance. By switching the narrative’s perspective to secondary characters—including Rama, a talking llama—the author shows how imagination can spread like ripples on a pond. The dialogue’s tone is formal, rather than naturalistic, but the story moves quickly as characters investigate the mystery, which is only partially resolved. Indeed, the book turns dark and ends rather chaotically, setting up a potential sequel. Even so, young readers will likely be happy to tag along. Sawyer’s (The Cupcake Book, 2014, etc.) full-color illustrations are suitably hazy and fantastical.
A curious, free-wheeling read for inquiring young minds.