Quill and Quire

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The Cat and the Wizard

by Dennis Lee, Gillian Johnson, illus.

A wild wizard party on the turrets of Toronto’s eccentric castle, Casa Loma – who could resist it? And who could resist the rollicking verses of Dennis Lee, matched with the delicately zany pictures of Gillian Johnson. Together they delight us with their tale of a “highly hospitable cat” in a “spiffy hat” who lives a lonely life in Casa Loma, and a homeless, footsore, weary wizard who finds his arts generally unappreciated.
“For nobody, nowadays,
Welcomes a wizard;
… show them a magus
Who knows his stuff –
They can’t slam their latches down
Quickly enough!”
Fortunately, wizard and cat meet up with each other, and spend an exciting evening as the cat provides dinner and cigars and the wizard does some tremendous feats of conjuring. Such an evening can’t just end: the wizard unpacks, curls up with the cat, and assures us that the parties will go on.
This jolly poem is a new version of one from Lee’s 1974 collection, Nicholas Knock and Other People, but merits its solo treatment as a picture book. The rhymes and rhythms are lively, varied, and confident, as we’d expect from Canada’s most celebrated children’s poet, and the recently acclaimed Poet Laureate of Toronto. Lee’s artful nonsense bubbles along, lightly bearing its theme – loneliness assuaged by finding a friend, and the pleasure of having a companion who enjoys the same kinds of fun that you do. The collaboration between Lee and Johnson is as successful as that between wizard and cat: Johnson’s quirky humour, earlier seen in Saranohair and My Sister Gracie, plays well with the kindly giddiness of the verse.