Despite an intriguing premise, Lachenmeyer and Beccia’s collaboration doesn’t quite manage to produce a pleasing composition.
Legend has it that Scarlatti’s "Sonata in G Minor" was inspired by his pet cat, Pulcinella. Lachenmeyer uses this as a jumping-off point and imagines that the fancy feline has a particular interest in (and talent for) composition. Though initially stymied by Scarlatti’s dictum that no one may touch his harpsichord, Pulcinella gets her chance one day when a bold mouse in a bright blue vest pops up and leads both cat and master on a merry chase. When her paws hit the keys, Pulcinella begins to play. Initially captivated, Scarlatti later worries about the impact of her talent on his livelihood and decides that passing his pet on to a friend is the best way to protect himself and other composers. Beccia’s illustrations feature subdued colors, elaborate details and faux crackling to enhance the historical feel. Unfortunately, the stiffness of the figures, though artistically appropriate, creates a sense of distance. Unlikely events, uneven pacing, and the unsettling, if ultimately amusing, finale further reduce the already limited appeal.
Music lovers might appreciate this slight story that ties the creation of a popular classical sonata to a pampered pet, but most young listeners will simply be left wondering what poor Pulcinella did to be abandoned by her owner. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)