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HOLLY by Ruth Brown

HOLLY

By Ruth Brown (Author) , Ruth Brown (Illustrator)

Age Range: 3 - 6

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-8050-6500-8
Publisher: Henry Holt

This slight holiday offering presents Holly, a kitten adopted at Christmastime (hence her name), and follows her as she overcomes an initial shyness and establishes herself firmly in the family’s affections. Along the way she bears two kittens of her own but always remains “the boss.” The narrator never names herself, but we see in the second-to-last frame that she is in fact the illustrator: the now-grown Holly watches as she finishes a painting of Holly as a kitten. Brown (Mad Summer Night’s Dream, 1999, etc.) is at the top of her form here, her expressive charcoal, acrylic, and watercolor paintings capturing with humor and affection the cat’s adventures. In one image, a disgusted Holly tries to find refuge in the linen closet from her kittens; in another, a very proud Holly presents her owner—depicted only as a pair of feet on a chair—with a mouse. An understated text highlights the gentle irony in the paintings. It is a lovely piece of bookmaking: all the images are framed with a rounded top, giving them a church-window feeling. For all its beauty and cleverness, though, the book’s audience is unclear: published for children, there is no child in it, nor does it even attempt a plot that would engage a child reader. As a paean to a cat, it is sweet; as a Christmas gift for a cat lover, it is lovely; as a child’s book, it misses the mark. (Picture book. 3-6)