Monday, March 4, 2013

Review: Anton and Cecil: Cats at Sea by Lisa Martin and Valerie Martin

A swashbuckling story of two very different cat brothers and their adventures at sea.

Cat brothers Cecil and Anton are as different in personality as they are in looks. Cecil, stocky and black with white patches, thirsts for seafaring adventure as he roams the docks of his harborside home, taking day trips on fishing boats when the chance comes along. Slim, gray Anton prefers listening to the sailors’ shanties at the town saloon. But one day when Anton does venture to the port, he’s stolen off the dock, and the next thing he knows, he’s at sea.

Knowing little of the wide open ocean that lies beyond the harbor, Cecil boards another ship in hopes of finding Anton. But what begins as a rescue mission turns into a pair of high seas adventures, with thrills and danger bubbling under every wave.

Anton takes on a fierce rat, outwits hungry birds, and forges a forbidden friendship, while Cecil encounters dolphins and whales and finds himself in the middle of a pirate raid. On an ocean as vast as the one Anton and Cecil have discovered, will they see home—or each other—ever again?

E-Galley received for review.

I wanted to like this, I really did, but it turned out to be not as pleasant of an experience as I had hoped.

The story itself had an interesting premise and was reasonably well done, but had some continuity problems between scenes.  In one instance, two of the cats were in a box in a market to be traded and then they were back on a ship with no explanation of how they got there or why.  These leaps made the reading not as enjoyable as it should have been.

Also, the cats were very roughly treated by the humans.  There were multiple instances of humans kicking and hitting the cats.  Not to mention interspecies violence as in a fight between a cat and a rat.  The violence and cruelty bordered on the sadistic at points which was completely unacceptable in a so-called children's book.

And, since much of the book took place either on the docks or on ships there were many sailing terms used, but hardly any were explained.  As an adult I had practically no idea what many of the terms meant and that really took away from the story.  You can only imagine how difficult it would be for a child.  You should not need a dictionary nearby when reading a children's book!

Overall, I wanted this to be a better experience than it was.  It is certainly not the happy adventures of The Wind in the Willows, but rather more similar to the darker books by Avi.  If you like Avi's books, then this would be a great read, but if you're looking for a happy animal read more along the lines of a George Seldon (The Cricket in Times Square, etc.) you need to look elsewhere.

Frankly, I was going to rate this as two stars right up until the final chapter which was the deciding factor to bump it up to three stars.  The final chapter did not contain any of the violence of the rest of the book and wrapped the story up quite nicely.  If only middle of the book had the quality of the first and last chapters I would happily recommend this.  As it is, I have to say it is really only suitable for a very select group of readers.  If I had children I would not consider this appropriate reading material for them.

★★☆☆ = Liked It


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