In this middle-grade novel, a family of cats fights against a mayor determined to get rid of them, while dealing with its own internal conflicts and dysfunctions.
The Katz Crew, a collection of rescue cats adopted by Ma and Pa Katz, is largely happy with their life in an English suburb, with their biggest problems coming from rebellious Cleo and Fluffy, who like to sneak out and party with the feral cats. But when the anti-feline mayor announces that all cats in the town will be killed, the crew must fight for its own survival and the future of all catkind. They spur the sympathetic humans to organize a fair to raise money, and they eventually do their own investigating to find a way to stop the mayor for good. The cats’ personalities bring the story to life. Retired prizefighter Buster is the crew’s leader; Ziggy grows catnip and other “herbal remedies” in a corner of the garden. Fluffy, who would rather be called Tyson, cares mainly about his prowess with the “ladeez,” though he has to reevaluate his goals after the Katzes have him neutered. Smoky spends his nights using the family’s computer, and his store of knowledge helps him move from nerd to authority figure over the course of the book, while he also becomes an object of interest to Cleo and her nemesis, Tyger, a retired supermodel. The result is a character-driven story; the cats’ group dynamics and personal growth engage more than the broader conflict with the mayor. The writing is entertaining and often funny, though the reader’s taste will determine whether the many cat-related puns (“kittengarden,” and “catiquette,” for starters) are charming or over-the-top. Romance and mystery writer Hodge’s (The Baby Trap, 2011) first book for children also seems unsure of whether it’s aiming for a younger or older audience. Like most talking animal stories, parts of the book, particularly the story of Sparkle, the crew’s newest arrival, seem to target middle-grade readers, but much of the humor, especially around Fluffy’s sex drive and Ziggy’s catnip, may go over those readers’ heads.
A unique story with an unclear target audience.