Release date: February 1, 2012
Author P.I. Maltbie returns to the theme of famous individuals and their pets--a subject she visited in her 2008 book Picasso and Minou--in her newest picture book. In this story, we meet Samuel Clemens, otherwise known as Mark Twain, a sad old man who has lost his beloved wife, Livy, and is living like a recluse in his house on 5th Avenue in New York City. His daughter's cat, Bambino, keeps him company as he spends more and more time in bed, refusing to accept invitations from people he's convinced will be expecting to meet the witty author Mark Twain, rather than a grumpy old man.
But when Bambino jumps out the window into the busy city, in pursuit of a squirrel, the celebrated author offers a reward for his return. Soon people from all over the city appear with cats and kittens of every description for Mr. Twain, even offering to lend him their own pets. Reporters came too, to write about Twain's missing pet. Will the "prodigal cat" return?
This is a delightful picture book for elementary school students. Since children generally love animals, they will easily identify with how the cat Bambino enriches Twain's life, and how when he goes missing it mobilizes the author's fans. An author's note at the end of the book provides further details on Twain and his household, including Bambino. The author also provides a brief bibliography of books about Mark Twain. Suggestions of further reading for young people would have been valuable as well (the titles offered seem to all be for adults).
Illustrator Daniel Miyares, in his second illustrated book for young people, uses mixed media and digital techniques to create striking illustrations for this tale. The images are stylized in a manner which makes them appear like collage or papercutting, and the muted colors with the glowing lighting provide a nostalgic quality to the pictures.
This book would be nicely paired with another picture book on Mark Twain published last year, The Extraordinary Mark Twain, According to Suzy, by Barbara Kerley (Scholastic, 2010).
Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.