Come Meet Some Mischievous Felines in a Castle Full of Cats by Ruth Sanderson – Review by Jenna Grodzicki
“Once there was a queen who kept a castle full of cats. She loved the pretty ones and the plain ones, the sweet ones and the brats.” Thus begins the story of an 18th century king and queen who live in an opulent castle filled with all the lavish things a royal family could desire. They have servants, extravagant clothing, and rare paintings and artifacts. Indeed, they are what a young reader may expect stereotypical royalty to look like. However, there is one important detail that makes this king and queen unique; their castle is filled with pampered cats!
The queen has allowed these indulged felines to have full run of the castle. They eat their meals at the dining room table off of the finest china, they stretch lazily on the royal furniture, and they climb on the silken tapestries. The queen loves her cats and is more than happy to give in to their every whim. On the other hand, the poor king is running out of patience with these pampered felines. Their antics inevitably result in chaos and destruction. He decides something drastic must be done!
When he returns home later that day with a bullmastiff, the spoiled cats worry that their days of free reign have come to an end. How will this new addition to the castle change the lifestyle these coddled cats have grown accustomed to?
Ruth Sanderson has created a memorable story in both verse and illustrations. The rhyming text flows beautifully and makes for a perfect read aloud. Not only will children who love animals easily relate to the queen, their imaginations will soar as they envision what would happen to their homes if they owned that many cats. The introduction of the dog adds a unique layer to the story, as young readers may not anticipate the events that follow.
Sanderson’s watercolor paintings are beautifully detailed and provide the reader with a contrasting version of the story that the words portray. The text makes it seem like the cats are models of proper behavior. They leave the king “charming little gifts to brighten up his days.” Unfortunately, these “gifts” are not charming at all; they are dead mice and fish bones. Sanderson explains how the felines help out by “making works of art” and sorting through the king’s papers. This “art”, however, is nothing more than deep scratches down the walls, and the papers aren’t sorted but are messily strewn everywhere as the cats climb over all the surfaces in the king’s office.
This humorous story has quickly become a favorite of both my seven year old and my five year old. We have read it together many times, and every time my children laugh out loud. They love spending time on each page to see what each individual cat is doing, and they often find a detail they hadn’t noticed before. While A Castle Full of Cats was my first experience with Ruth Sanderson’s books, it will certainly not be my last. She is truly a master of her craft.
Jenna Grodzicki was a teacher for 12 years, but is now a full time mommy to two adorable and crazy children. She is currently pursuing certification to become a Library Media Specialist, and is working on writing her first picture book. In her spare time, Jenna loves to read (obviously!), ski, and cheer for the best team in baseball, the Boston Red Sox. Check out her book blog at jennalovesreading.blogspot.com, or visit her on Twitter @jennagrodz.