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Ghost Cat

by Mark Abley, Karen Reczuch, illus.

Miss Wilkinson and her cat, Tommy Douglas, have grown old together. But while Miss Wilkinson keeps busy with seniors‚ choir, pottery club, and the social justice committee, Tommy Douglas, at 17, is slowing down, finding it more difficult to climb onto the sofa. When he dies in her arms, a fine and loving friendship comes to an end. Miss Wilkinson tries to distract herself but simply feels empty without her beloved cat. However, the cat hasn’t abandoned his old friend and finds a wonderful, mysterious way to continue their friendship.
Ghost Cat is Quebec writer Mark Abley’s first children’s book. Having cut his teeth as a journalist, editor, poet, and travel writer (best known for Stories from the Ice Storm), he’s crafted a magical picture book. Ghost Cat is full of wry humour, imaginative wordplay, and evocative metaphors. Subtle and knowing, striking just the right balance between deeply moving emotional resonance and whimsical fantasy, Abley’s story is poignantly touching without ever being sloppily sentimental. And it’s full of wonderful details; Miss Wilkinson, a supporter of social justice, has fittingly named her cat for the Canadian politician who founded the CCF.
Karen Reczuch’s evocative watercolour and coloured pencil illustrations neatly match the emotional depth of Abley’s text. Reczuch’s pictures have an almost palpable life of their own, especially those of cat and owner where Reczuch has indeed caught the bond between them. In one illustration of Tommy Douglas perched on the finely patterned rug, you can almost feel his breath gently rising and falling.
Ghost Cat is a simply stunning debut and, hopefully, the first of many picture books from Abley.