Antonia Barber


Your reviewer has chosen a slightly different book this month, in honor of Halloween. Being a long-time reader of fantasy and enchantment, the story of the small feline, Catkin, had instant appeal for this reviewer.

Catkin, by Antonia Barber, is what many people would refer to as a children's story.  It is true that Catkin can rightly be described as a picture book, but there is an element of darkness that isn't always found in books for the younger set. All turns out well, however, in the best tradition of “Once upon a time....” Catkin is a tale of courage and adventure, of loyalty and love, and, of course, magic, in the best sense of the word.

“There was once a cat so small that he could sit in comfort on the palm of a man's hand. He was born to an old mother who lived with a Wise Woman on the top of a round green hill.

“The last is often the best,” said the Wise Woman to the old cat, and she named him Catkin because his golden tail was no bigger than the hazel catkins that danced outside her window.”

When Catkin was old enough to leave his mother, the Wise Woman took him to the home of a farmer, who lived at the foot of the green hill. There, the small cat became the constant companion of Carrie, the little daughter of the good farmer and his wife.

“As she went down the hill she talked to Catkin, telling him to keep watch over the little girl. For she had seen in the dark sky of the child's birth that some danger came toward her.”

Catkin and Carrie loved each other on sight, and the small cat always watched out for the little girl. One day, however, it happened that Catkin grew careless, and the child was taken by the Little People, who lived under the green hill, leaving a changeling in her place. The grief-stricken parents fetched the Wise Woman, and it was she who knew that Catkin was the only one who could rescue the little girl.

“Catkin set out boldly into the black hole and for a long time he wandered in the mazy, earth-smelling darkness. Then he saw a gleam of light ahead and came out into a strange and beautiful world. He found vast caverns within the hollow hill where the walls shone gold and silver and lay reflected in deep lakes of still green waters.”

The paintings by P. J. Lynch that illustrate Catkin serve to heighten the magic of this story. Their beauty enhances the tale of Catkin and Carrie, and leads the reader through the realms of mortal and immortal. Be sure to read all about it!

Copyright © 2003, S. Halversen.
All Rights Reserved.