August 24, 2011
Puss in Boots retold by John Cech illustrated by Bernhard Oberdieck
When a young man inherits nothing but a cat when his father dies, he isn’t surprised when the cat begins to speak. “I wouldn’t sell me if I were you. I can change your fortunes.” At the cat’s request, the young man borrows a pair of boots and a hat and the cat finagles his way into the king’s court.
Day after day, the cat returns to court, each time bearing a gift. (Don’t ask where the cat got them. He’s a cat. It’s a fairy tale. You probably won’t be thrilled with the answer.) The king insists that the cat’s master visit the court.
Fortunately, the young man was left a conniving cat and not something nice and obedient like a dog because it takes the cat’s cunning to get the young man a suitable outfit and then cheat an ogre out of his kingdom so that the young man has a manor house in which to greet the king.
I’m a bit embarrassed to say that until I was well into this book, it didn’t hit me that I had never read the original tail, or at least not in a very long time. I had forgotten what a sly creature Puss is and I didn’t remember about the ogre at all.
Oberdieck’s art work is suitably detailed for such a rich story and it will give youngsters something to search as you read this fairly long book. But it is definitely a book worth reading. I’ve had librarians and teachers comment that their students don’t know the old tales and this is one worth knowing.
No, the morals of the cat are not impeccable but that is something for you to discuss. And, when you do, you might remember that most cats have a fairly flexible moral code, tending towards naps, filched snacks and mischief.
This would be a great book for a long evening reading and telling story as a family.