The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles De Lint, illustrated by Charles Vess
This story is super charming, super sweet and very fable like but with a little bit less of the heavy handed moralistic values that tend to get all over fables and ruin the experience. At least for me.
Lillian is an orphan being raised by her Aunt on a farm near Tanglewood forest. She loves the forest, the animals in it and the magic and myth that surround them, particularly the wild cats. One day when she’s playing in the forest, Lillian is bitten by a snake and is rescued by the wild cats who save her by turning her into a kitten. Of course, Lillian doesn’t want to stay a kitten but her choice to become human again has terrible consequences.
It’s a kind of slow, meandering book but the illustrations are beautiful and the story is lovely. Lillian is a likable heroine, even if she really a symbol more than she is a person. There are the required elements of talking animals, trees, half man half animal creatures and a character that is almost literally a deus ex machina. There’s careful explanation of the lessons that Lillian’s learned through her adventures, but they aren’t really what you’d expect and even though they are stated outright I didn’t find them particularly heavy handed. Which is weird ’cause usually I really, really hate all attempts by adults at forcing kids to understand stories in a certain way.
Like… really hate it.
The other things that I found really interesting was the portrayal of Aboriginal people in this book. Again, normally the portrayal of them as kind of wise, all knowing mystics makes me super uncomfortable because it’s kind of you know, superficial and not really complex, but in this story I found it didn’t matter. The whole story is so saturated in mythology, both North American and European and so many characters fill the place for the powerful, magical being that it doesn’t feel particularly problematic at all. Which is kind of a win. And by kind of I mean a serious one. In the story the Aboriginal people are just like all the other people, no more defined or limited in their expression by that piece of their history than any other character.
So at the end of it all this is probably not the book to give to a reluctant reader or a kid looking for a quick pace but it really is a beautiful story. I don’t know, it feels like a read aloud before bed kind of story somehow. That’s what I’d do with it.
Last movie I watched: A Dangerous Method. I watched it for the cast, not going to lie. Keira Knightly was kind of… better than I thought she’d be
Last TV episode I watched: Part of a TMNT on TV I think. Last full episode of something was V MARS!