Catlantis by Anna Starobinets, Andrzej Klimowski and Jane Bugaeva (translator)
|Catlantis by Anna Starobinets, Andrzej Klimowski and Jane Bugaeva (translator)|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A quirky and engaging animal fantasy for the young, with a cat's destiny entwined with that of his whole species.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 128||Date: October 2015|
|Publisher: Pushkin Children's Books|
Meet Baguette. Despite the name, he's a cat living in central Moscow, with a human family, on the twelfth floor of a high-rise. His place to perch is somehow between the two panes that make up a high window, half in and half out of the room, watching the world and its birds go by. But there's a part to that world he knows nothing about – the whole mythology of cats and catlife. Cats had possession of their own land, Catlantis, a place suitable for such sacred creatures to exist. Flowers gave them extra lives, up to a maximum of nine, just by you sniffing them. But all that is in the past – and that's where Baguette must go, for the whole future of catdom hangs in the balance of him going back to right wrongs, and find what was long forgotten about both his and everyone else's destiny. And all he wants is the paw of his sweetheart in marriage. You might think you know the lengths to which a cat will go for love, but you won't have read the likes of this…
Another length Baguette has to go to here is to sit at a table and write love letters, for the human family's other pet, the dog, to take to his inamorata. These anthropomorphised images look a little unusual at times, but a lot of this book is unusual – and is all the better for it. There's the destruction of Catlantis to discover, and a lot more before Baguette can win the day, and what results is a most singular fantasy based around a very novel mythology as back story. It just strikes one as being on the right side of the 'odd' balance – any quirkier and things might begin to fall apart, but it doesn't. Instead things are very finely sustained, which includes something quite remarkable when considering this is a translated Russian original text.
Yes, for this version the writing has had to be as catty and pun-filled as possible. People don't take nicotine, they use 'nicatine'. The cats refer to their religious text, the Cat-echesis – otherwise there might be a cat-astrophe. They were put in their lost world by a deity called Pussiedon – not Puss-eidon, but possibly the largest and most masculine of pussies out there. How this word play spirit was carried over from the original so successfully is anyone's business.
Well, if the truth be told it's Pushkin Children's Books' business, and I have to take the time to state they do it very well. They (and their equivalent, Gecko Press) have the wherewithal and the know-how to cherry-pick the best of tales from across the non-English speaking world if need be, meaning they can often hit a seemingly unlikely motherlode. After that, there's nothing in their vocab as 'just another kids' book' – Pushkin give everything I've seen the same careful emphasis as if it were the latest tent-pole release for an adult audience. Where that global reach is crucial here is in the very nature of this book being originally Russian. I'm sure that the target audience will enjoy a fine story – and when it comes to one bravura element, a very fine story indeed – but I think that even the young will find something unusual here, something different, removed from their norm, and quite deliciously alien at times.
Yes, here the set-up takes up too great a proportion of the story, and yes there are a couple of other things to raise, such as the deliberately cut-and-paste manner in which we're reminded this is a sequel (albeit this author's first non-horror to be seen in English) being a sign of the humour not being universally successful, but this is a very engaging and quite memorable work. I can see the weird mix of humans talking to cats and vice versa riling some, but I found many good qualities in this story that make it well worth the look.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy – and again point the reader to the same house's The Cat Who Came in off the Roof by Annie M G Schmidt and David Colmer (translator) as having a lot going for it.
You can read more book reviews or buy Catlantis by Anna Starobinets, Andrzej Klimowski and Jane Bugaeva (translator) at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Catlantis by Anna Starobinets, Andrzej Klimowski and Jane Bugaeva (translator) at Amazon.com.
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