Quill and Quire


« Back to
Book Reviews

Cat’s Eye Corner

by Terry Griggs

Olivier’s visit to his grandfather’s house, Cat’s Eye Corner, is anything but humdrum. For one thing, people seem to think his new step-step-step-Gramma is a witch; certainly she does have a houseful of cats. Then there is the scavenger hunt she has devised – a hunt for objects Olivier has never even heard of, like hagoday, skipjack, sunstone, doit, and brain coral. Olivier’s search for these marvellous objects takes him to places even stranger than Cat’s Eye Corner; on the other hand, maybe the places he visits, such as the underwater forest, are all still contained within his grandparents’ remarkable house.

Like the Harry Potter books – perhaps the inevitable point of comparison for children’s fantasy these days – Griggs’s novel contains a number of amusingly inventive objects and scenes. A magical fountain pen, named Murray Schaeffer, writes of its own accord in various scripts suited to the topic or emotion of the moment, and becomes Olivier’s closest friend. Other characters pop in and out of the story, as in one of Alice’s dreamworlds, and like the Alice books, this one delights in language and word play. Readers who enjoy puns will find plenty of them here, as well as literary allusions (some, like the Murray Schaeffer joke, beyond the grasp of most 10-year-olds). A former Governor General’s Award nominee, Griggs writes in a lively, clever way. What the story needs, however, is more of a framework or context to make us care about Olivier and what happens to him. As it is, he flashes from scene to scene like a figure in a computer or video game, without a unifying vision to give his adventures coherence and meaning.