Monday, May 21, 2012

THE BEST CAT by Valeri Gorbachev

Gorbachev, Valeri. The Best Cat. Illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev. Somerville: Candlewick Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-7636-3675-3. $15.99.

An ostensible story about the beloved family cat, Bootsy, the text is actually an altercation between brother and sister, performed in front of Grandma, Dad, Mom and Grandpa, using Bootsy a centerpiece. In what must be, in a family of confident children, a sometimes trying sibling rivalry, brother Jeff imagines Bootsy the cat to be the best of many things (clown, ballerina, fisherman), while sister Ginny counters with reasons why Jeff is wrong.

Jeff never loses his Peter Pan-like charismatic conceit, projected onto beloved Bootsy. Ginny enjoys playing the killjoy to Jeff’s “Lookit me” enthusiasm for Bootsy, by assuming the “Not so” attitude of a better-informed realist. However, despite her superior putdowns, Ginny is as imaginative as Jeff: the reason Bootsy can’t be the world’s best ballerina, for example, is not because she can’t dance ballet, but because she wouldn’t like wearing a tutu. Betsy never argues that Bootsy isn’t anthropomorphically capable of being the best at anything. Humor saves these two siblings from being truly irritating children, as their fantasy, rooted in love for their cat, takes on charm—especially in Gorbachev’s subtly drawn facial expressions.

Harmony is achieved on the last page when both agree that “Bootsy is the best cat in the world.”

Alexandra Boyer

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