Thursday, June 23, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book one hundred and seventy-four

Romeo and Juliet is one of my favorite plays, but it is not, for the most part, a play that lends itself to a young audience. Children are likely to shy away from the "mushy stuff" and to think that the death of the lovers makes no sense. In today's picture book, the tale of Romeo and Juliet is told in a new and creative way, using cats and rats as main characters. There is a villain who needs to be defeated, and the mushiness is not too overpowering. 

The WhispererNick Butterworth
Picture Book
Ages 4 and up
HarperCollins UK, 2004, 978-0007120185
   Meet the Whisperer, a rat who loves to cause mischief between two rival cat “gangs.” Of course he has a very good reason for wanting discord, for if the cats are fighting one another then they have no time to be interested in him or his kind. It is therefore with disgust that the rat overhears a conversation between Monty, one of the black and white cats, and Amber, one of the ginger cats. It would appear that these two felines, horror of horrors, are in love.
   The rat, being the rather nasty character that he is, decides to inform on the two lovers, and he does so by whispering so that no one will know where the information is coming from. Soon enough the leaders of the two gangs know about Monty and Amber and they deliver an ultimatum: the couple must either return to their families and give each other up or they can leave altogether, never to return. Amber and Monty, being true lovers, take the latter course, and after their departure, everything goes back to normal and the gangs start fighting again. The rat is most satisfied.
   Then Monty and Amber return and they bring a most disturbing piece of news with them, one which threatens to disrupt the rat’s happy life.
   This wonderfully funny cat version of the Romeo and Juliet story is not only highly amusing with vibrant characters, but it also has a most satisfactory ending in which true love triumphs over discord and strife. Best of all, the ‘baddie’ gets what he deserves.
   With deliciously evocative artwork set on a black background, this urban tale will provide plenty of entertainment for readers of all ages.

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