A friendly cat worms his way into the affections of a number of neighbors, gains new names (and enough extra meals to pack on a few pounds), and eventually brings together residents new and old.
Variously christened “Stuart Little,” “Kitty-boy,” “Placido,” “Mooch,” “Dove” and “Mouse,” the round gray cat offers companionship to a lonely librarian, an elderly gentleman, a widowed Hispanic opera lover, a red-haired policewoman with a fondness for fast food, a homeless vet, and a girl and her mom just settling into their new home. A (happy) twist at the end removes the cat from this particular community, but his presence, however temporary, has a lasting impact. Johnston’s text is smooth and conversational, with pleasantly distinct voices for each of the characters, but it may prove overly long for some young listeners. The themes of diversity and connection are commendable, but occasionally, they seem to outweigh Johnston’s plump hero. Davenier’s soft ink-and–colored-pencil illustrations, mostly double-page spreads, have the fluidity of watercolors as well as a scratchy, scruffy charm. Repeated patterns and colors create a cohesive feel, as does the appearance of various characters in the background both before and after they have been introduced.
Children will likely enjoy this visit to a newly united neighborhood, even if the catalyst for its creation is more device than distinct individual. (Picture book. 6-8)