2 out of 4 stars
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Dreamcats by Christopher Best features two siblings who are in the midst of a shared dream. David and Elsa find themselves in a town run by oversized cats who act like people. The kids are captured and thrown into a compound for “stray” humans. In the town of Felinestow, humans are good for only two purposes – to be adopted as a pet, or killed and turned into food. A kindly police cat, George, takes David and Elsa home as pets, but their troubles are far from over. Things turn chaotic when a group of Siamese cats declares war on the town.
This 198-page children’s book contains many inventive touches, but the plot is very busy. The story begins with clear imagery of the setting, including cutesy cat names for restaurants and other locations. After the children are detained, the focus is on a typical “how do we escape” dilemma. Then the plot goes off track with various side stories, such as the Siamese attack and political dissent.
David and Elsa are fleshed out well as two children who are aware that they are caught up in a dream. They are frightened, yet try to remain calm under pressure. George is a standout as a wise, compassionate cat. He is showcased to the point where the siblings often feel like supporting characters.
One problem I had was the way humans were treated in this fantasy town. Young readers could wind up having nightmares about being captured and eaten by cats. I cringed when I saw the word slaughterhouse used several times in one chapter.
The tale plods forward slowly, due in part to the author’s rambling writing style. I found myself rereading long-winded sentences for clarity. The story appears to be edited well, with only a few errors (you’re/your and an incorrectly placed comma). Also, the author includes several references that older adults might appreciate, but children wouldn’t relate to – for example, Anthony and Cleopatra, Oscar Wildebeast, etc.
There are no pictures other than a generic set of paw prints between each chapter. Certainly, illustrations aren’t required in a children’s chapter book. Still, the imaginative descriptions scream for accompanying artwork. Adding a few plot-related illustrations might keep a young reader’s mind from wandering.
I rate this book 2 out of 4 stars. With a long-winded writing style and meandering plot, it didn’t hold my interest consistently. That being said, readers ages 9-11 might enjoy the creative descriptions and relate to the main characters having a weird dream. Although the book could be read aloud to younger children, it is very long and includes sophisticated political themes. Teens would likely find the subject matter too juvenile for their taste.
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