________________ CM . . . . Volume V Number 1 . . . . September 4, 1998

cover A Cat in a Kayak.

Maria Coffey. Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 1998.
32 pp. hardcover $16.95, paper $6.95.
ISBN 1-55037-509-1(hardcover)
ISBN 1-55037-508-3 (paper).

Subject Headings:
Cats-Juvenile fiction.
Pets-Juvenile fiction.
Kyaking-Juvenile fiction.

Preschool - grade 2 / Ages 3 - 7.
Review by Alison Mews.

*** / 4


THINGS WERE IMPOSSIBLE! Teelo couldn't bear being around any of these crazy creatures a moment longer! He left the house, went into the forest and climbed a tree. From his hiding place amid its branches he watched the other animals greeting Victor when he came home: Sylvie the snake hissed happily, Terry the terrier tugged at Victor's pant leg, growling with glee, and the rooster, the hens and the parrot perched on Victor's head and shoulders, crowing and clucking and shrieking with joy.

"What a noisy lot you are!" Victor teased them, "Tomorrow's my day off; I'm going to Thunder Rock in my kayak to find some peace and quiet!"

Teelo's ears pricked up. Peace and quiet? That's what he was longing for! When darkness descended, Teelo climbed out of the tree, crept down to the beach and stowed away in Victor's kayak. He thought happily of all the peace and quiet he would find on Thunder Rock. But when he fell asleep, he dreamed he was out at sea in a little boat, being rolled about by the waves and drenched with spray. Suddenly he woke up - and this wasn't a dream at all!

He was at sea, in Victor's kayak, and the waves were high and steep, with curling white crests! Sticking his head out of the hatch he looked about. Behind him, Cloud Island had shrunk to a tiny dot; ahead, a dark, forbidding island was looming up. He meowed fearfully, and Victor turned around astonished to find that he had a cat in his kayak.

"Teelo!" he cried. "You adventurous fellow!"

image Teelo, the title cat, is far from being an adventurous fellow. He just wants a comfortable home and a little peace and quiet. Once he takes that first ride on the kayak, however, his life is forever changed. When Teelo's owner must conform to her apartment building's "no pets" ruling, Victor the vet kindly agrees to keep Teelo on his island home, to which he commutes by kayak. Once settled in, Teelo quickly adapts to his new environment, but soon Victor begins kayaking home other animals that can no longer stay with their owners. Each new addition adopts Teelo's snoozing spot, and he finds another, only to have it taken over by the next homeless pet. Each adaptation results in a variation of the phrase "things couldn't be better, until..." using the progressively uneasy adjectives "fine", "bearable", "tolerable", and finally "impossible", at which point Teelo decides to accompany Victor on a quest for peace. At Thunder Rock, though, Teelo is terrified by menacing wild creatures. The chaotic but friendly turmoil at home seems infinitely more attractive. On the last page, readers see Teelo happily settling into the comfortable confusion of home. The back cover illustration of a resigned Teelo tolerating a baby chick, with a strutting rooster and a playful puppy behind them, is an amusing extension to the ending.

      Using vivid gouache colours, Eugenie Fernandes has imbibed the illustrations with such energy that you can almost hear the squawking and flapping of chickens. While Victor is depicted as the calm and kindly vet who is oblivious of the tumult created by the riotous animals, Teelo's expressions mirror his growing alarm and frustration as the new pets wreck his ordered home. With little chicks hatching all over, the terrier tearing Teelo's favourite cushion while a hen nips his tail, the cat's desperation to escape is given visual clarification.

      An avid kayaker herself, Maria Coffey has fashioned an improbable, exaggerated story about a menagerie of discarded pets and the tender-hearted vet who gives them all a home.


Alison Mews is the Coordinator of the Centre for Instructional Services, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland St. John's, Newfoundland.

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

Copyright © 1998 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364