Ian Wallace, the veteran Canadian-born children’s author and illustrator, begins his latest picture book in an unidentified American town. (Wallace now lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, a likely contender.) Young Brando is attempting to catch a cool breeze on a sweltering night by sleeping on the screened porch with his mother and father.
Shortly after Brando falls asleep, a ghostly cat that died in the War of 1812 sails over the wall from the nearby cemetery to take him on a fantastic flying adventure. Over the drowsy town they sail, a journey marked by such dreamlike touches as buildings turned to ice cream, melting in the evening’s heat. The pair go on to do somersaults around the rings of Saturn, finally landing in the Arctic on a melting southbound iceberg.
The journey serves two purposes: first, to entertain, and second, to provoke questions. The War of 1812 and the melting iceberg are peripheral, suggestive details within the story, rather than fully realized plot devices. Which is as it should be: given the limitations of the format, explaining a significant historical event or the effects of rising temperatures on icebergs would be unwieldy, if not impossible. Wallace’s clever teasers should inspire interest in further reading among children in the target age group, without disrupting the momentum of his story.
As with his previous books, Wallace’s choice of palette perfectly reflects the story: moody blues and greys, complete with grainy textures, give the reader a sense of being inside Brando’s dream. Even the candy-hued planets and prominently displayed American flags are muted. The text benefits from a lilting cadence and fun dialogue between Brando and the cat, making this latest effort from a beloved author as enjoyable to read as it is to look at, for adults and children alike.