Thursday, May 09, 2024

Cats of the Silver Crescent

Noel, Caela. The Cats of Silver Crescent
April 30, 2024 by Greenwillow Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Elsby MacBride has to spend the summer with her Great Aunt Verity, an archaeology professor, in Snipatuit, Rhode Island when her mother, an art curator, needs to go to Los Angeles. It's a big change from New York City, and Elsby is apprehensive about staying in a cottage and fending for herself. It doesn't help when she catches sight of a cat in Beatrix Potter style clothing, and is later approached by four cats... who talk! The owner of Verity's, Rose, passed away suddenly, and the cats are living in her house. They are running out of food, and Rose, who was a librarian at the local Atheneum, told them to seek out a child if they ever needed help. Horatio, Clarissa, Marzipan, and Tapioca were all rescued by Rose, but they are vague about how they can talk, saying only that magic was involved. Elsby agrees to help, and manages to get to the local market to buy inordinate amounts of meat without Verity finding out. She does meet Penelope Perez at the Atheneum, and the two strike up a friendship. Elsby tells Penelope about the cats, and brings her to meet them. Marzipan is a poet who quotes T.S. Eliot, Tappy is grief stricken by Rose's death, Horatio seems content to just hang about, and Clarissa is evil. Really evil. She not only demands that Elsby help the cats, and never says thank you, but is engaged in studying dark magic. Elsby is leery of Clarissa's plans, so Clarissa manages to talk Penelope into helping the cats with a renewal spell. This spell might have hastened Rose's death, but Penelope is so enthralled by the thought of doing actual magic that she is willing to help. This causes the girls to have a fight, but when Elsby uncovers information about just how bad this magic is, she tries to save her friend. Luckily, help comes from an unexpected place. Will it be enough to keep Clarissa from hurting the girls?
Strengths: This had a great sense of place, and the cottage filled with antiques and old books, along with the cats in pinafores makes you think "Oh, how cute! Let's have tea with the cats!" BEFORE THEY KILL YOU. Whew. Elsby has some anxiety about her mother being away from her, but seems to do okay with this weird occurrence. I was glad that she had Penelope to help her, although that didn't work out too well. That dynamic tracks very well with middle school friendships, though. Verity was a great character, and used quite well. Despite the overall cute feel to this, it takes a dark, dark turn, with evil magic. Like this author's Coo, this is definitely an original middle grade novel! 
Weaknesses: I would have liked to know more about Rose and the magic instead of Elsby's anxiety. There could be a whole novel about Rose and the cats in the 1970s. I'd read that. 
What I really think: I thought this would be a bit like Waugh's The Mennyms (1993), which is one of my favorite magical realism titles, but it got dark in a way I didn't expect, rather like Saunders' 2013 The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop.

For fans of Kate Saunders' work, I'm sorry to say that she passed away in April of 2023.

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