In Swissler’s (Deliverance from Evil, 1992) brief debut for children, with illustrations by Barac, a peripatetic cat named Spunky has a series of adventures.
Spunky, a pumpkin orange cat, has a comfortable home with humans who love and take care of him, but he’s always eager to explore the world outside his home—but “when Spunky took a walk, something always happened.” He befriends a large, gentle dog named Bella, and the two meet daily to companionably roam the neighborhood. Spunky enjoys visiting other homes (until he’s doused with a bucket of water by a homeowner), he likes to climb trees (until, thinking that he’s stuck, panicked children call the fire department), and he very much enjoys when the children he lives with treat him to ice cream on their way home from school. Yet for all these adventures, which may or may not take place in one day, Bella misses the excitement while waiting patiently for Spunky to meet him at his garage. In the book’s final pages, readers learn that as Spunky grows older, his “naps grew longer and playtime with the kids grew shorter,” though his home life remains constant, as does his relationship with Bella. The cat and dog continue to share sunsets together and relish each other’s company; the destinations aren’t important, but the short journeys are. Spunky’s legendary status isn’t quite explained, although he does manage to stir up trouble wherever he roams. Though competent and mildly appealing, the watercolor illustrations don’t feel fresh or particularly modern, and the text to art ratio could be improved with more illustrations, perhaps with spreads over two pages.
A warmhearted, colorfully illustrated romp for young cat lovers.