My animal loving cousin said, “Why don’t you review a book about dog training?” Cousin is well aware that we have had mixed success with our dog, who will jump through a hoop on command but still eats all my clothes.
“Well”, said I, “Most of what I write about is science fiction and fantasy and romance…”
“Oh”, said Cousin, “Would you review this book I liked when I was a child? It’s not about a dog, it’s about a cat”.
This being an equal opportunity blog, both cat and dog books are welcome, especially if they fit into one of the genres listed above, so I gave her recommendation a try. It was delightful although I suspect it’s one of those books that’s better when you are a kid – I say this because I thought the book was not strong as an overall piece of literature, but had great kid-bait moments. I can hardly wait to read the chapter to my daughter in which a baby dragon is lost and found. She’ll eat it up.
Grimbold’s Other World, by Nicholas Stuart Gray, is a children’s fantasy book about a boy who befriends (sort of) a cat that is able to guide the boy between worlds. The boy is able to communicate with animals and often finds himself in other worlds by accident, although he is usually guided there by Grimbold. Grimbold keeps needing a human to help him save the son of an evil sorcerer. This son is something of a jerk and always in trouble, but Grimbold just can’t stand to see him come to harm. The story is episodic, as the boy, named Muffler, goes about his life but is constantly interrupted by inter-world crises. Along the way we encounter an anxiety-ridden dog, a loyal horse, a baby dragon, a unicorn, and, in my opinion, some truly dreadful poetry.
This book does not have especially well-developed characters, or amazing powers of description, or brilliant use of language, or a plot that makes much sense, or much thematic depth to it. So, were I grading it, I would not give it an A. BUT – this book has a cat that pulls the boy into an alternate universe by taking him through the chimney, a unicorn, and a baby dragon. Frankly, that’s some good literature, right there. Well-developed characters and such things would be icing on the cake, but let’s face it, once you’ve got talking animals and a baby dragon, you can’t go too far wrong. I haven’t tried this book out on my own daughter yet, but I predict that she will look upon it the way I look at a package of Oreos. She will read this thing before you can say “baby dragon”. This is nine-year-old kid crack, especially if the kid in question loves animals. No wonder Cousin liked it – I did too! I’m not sure if many adults will find it to be deeply satisfying – it doesn’t have the substance of something like the Narnia books or Neverending Story. But you’ll enjoy sharing it with your kids. Just don’t be surprised if you find your kids climbing up the chimney.