Charles de Lint
"Lillian is an orphan who lives with her aunt on a homestead miles from anyone, surrounded by uncharted forest. She wanders the woods, chasing after squirrels and rabbits and climbing trees like a possum. Free-spirited and independent, Lillian is a kindred soul to the many wild cats who gather around the ancient beech tree. One day, while she is under the beech, Lillian is bitten by a poisonous snake. The cats refuse to let her die, and use their magic to turn her into one of their own. How she becomes a girl again is a lyrical, original folktale that begs to be read aloud.
"Set in the hill country of the author's fictional city of Newford, A Circle of Cats is the much anticipated first picture book by longtime friends Charles de Lint and Charles Vess, whose masterful art is as magical as the story."
I enjoyed reading Circle of Cats. I picked it up on a whim, curious to see more of Charles Vess' work (I loved his illustrated edition of Stardust by Neil Gaiman), and I'm incredibly pleased with Charles Vess and Charles de Lint's book. Quite frankly, it's like nothing I've ever read--and I liked that about it.
Yes, it's a children's book, but it's accessible for all ages. As an adult, I appreciated the subtle nuances of culture and magic that existed in the midst of the story, and I absolutely loved the artwork. Besides which, it's not quite what you expect from a half-fairy tale/half-folklore story about cats--or, at least, it's not quite what I expected.
Moreover, it's unexpectedly southern.
I know that sounds almost ridiculous, but I enjoyed how it pulls from southern (specifically, Appalachian culture) and draws on many of the legends, stories, and fables of the area. It lends magic to the real world, appreciating both the history and culture of Appalachia while simultaneously providing a compelling odyssey.
Although I liked Lillian as a character and I loved the charming legends surrounding the Father of Cats and the Apple Tree Man, I adored Vess' illustrations. The art is absolutely beautiful, a unique blend of reality and imagination that's sure to impress. I especially loved the greenery of the background and the mountains in the distance, the rustic charm of the landscape and characters, the almost cozy feeling that proliferates the pages.
It has a touch of something that makes it feel like home to me, and it makes me see that world with new eyes. Honestly, that's probably one of the biggest draws for me with Circle of Cats and I highly recommend it to young readers and their parents, even if you're not the biggest fan of cats.
Occasionally, I found Lillian's journey to be unfair. I mean, she didn't ask to be turned into a cat--and yet she still had to pay the price?
No, I found that injustice rather hard to swallow.
Snakes, curses, and dangerous journeys.