The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles De Lint

Cats of Tanglewood ForestLillian lives a contented life with Aunt, deep in the forest, on a farm with chickens, cats, a cow, and the Apple Tree Man, and where Lillian has always hoped to see fairies. Her life is unexceptional–though full of delight–until a day when she is bitten by a snake in the forest. Almost dead, she is saved by the forest cats, who change her into a kitten! Lillian has always wanted to see magic, but she would rather not be a cat, especially since there’s no way for her to tell Aunt what has happened. Lillian embarks on an unbelieveable adventure, involving talking foxes, a possum witch, Lillian’s old friends the Creek boys and their frightening Aunt Nancy, spiders, bear people, and even the Father of Cats.

The story is a compelling one, but the reason the book reaches towards exceptionality is in the marriage of the text and the magical illustrations (by Charles Vess). A hundred years ago, even novels for adults could be heavily illustrated, but over the years, we’ve begun to think of pictures in books as first, ‘just for kids’, and later ‘just for babies’. This book appears to be part of a vanguard of heavily-illustrated novels proving that we can have a thought-provoking, in-depth, novel-length story with illustrations on nearly every page. Unlike those in the works of the more famous Brian Selznik, the illustrations here do not move the story along on their own, but they illuminate it perfectly, bringing characters further to life, and adding a tingle of the unearthly to all the magical elements. Highly recommended for those who like real-world-rooted fantasy, folk-tales, and animal stories.

Posted by: Sarah


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