________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 2 . . . . September 9, 2011



Eric Walters.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2011.
229 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-55469-953-7.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Mark Mueller.

*** /4



"Do you understand my story," Mr. Singh asked.

"I think so. It's sort of like who you are and what you're like will be a big part of what happens for you wherever you live."

"Exactly!" he exclaimed, and he gave me a big pat on the back. "No country is perfect."

Taylor is a grade 6 student who is a newcomer to the city of Toronto. He likes to help his mom around the house when he is not busy doing homework or playing basketball with his new friends. The people and the culture in the big city are different from the small-town from where he originally came. Taylor is curious about the people of Toronto, and he enjoys learning about the Toronto's cultures.

      One day, when Taylor and his new friend Simon are taking a short-cut home through a junkyard, the two of them stand up to a group of bullies who are throwing rocks at a family of feral cats. The boys are assisted by the security guard of the junkyard, Mr. Singh, in chasing the bullies away, and the three of them become friends. Taylor's friendship with Mr. Singh develops as he takes a special interest in looking after the feral cat colony that made the junkyard its home. When Taylor learns that the junkyard is being redeveloped into a property for condominiums, he makes a plan to move the cats to the other side of the city to ensure their safety. With the help of Mr. Singh, his classmates, his teacher, his mother, and a local animal interest group, Taylor and succeeds in saving the colony of feral cats.

      Eric Walters does a nice job in crafting a story that could be used to teach multiple subjects in a middle-school curriculum. For instance, Walters deals with the theme of cultural diversity in great enough detail to make Catboy suitable to use with a unit in social studies. Taylor also learns much about the hierarchical nature and the survival needs of feral cat colonies which would make the story suitable to use with a unit in science. The fact that Walters utilized the skills of hundreds of students from the Toronto District School Board to help him edit the final manuscript also deserves special mention. Such a massive project could inspire other English teachers to pursue a similar project.

      One of the potential weaknesses of Catboy is that Taylor and his friends seem a little too good and well-behaved at times to be true. The course of events in the story also seems a little too convenient at times which could compromise the story's believability. Fortunately, Catboy does contain enough interesting information about feral cat colonies and Toronto's cultural diversity to provide for interesting classroom discussions.

      I would recommend Eric Walters' Catboy to be included in an education and/or school library collection.


Mark Mueller is the Education Librarian at Tyndale University College in Toronto, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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