Sunday, April 23, 2006

Review: Cat Kin

This is a very early review of Nick Green's Cat Kin.

Originally a print-on-demand title from Lulu, Cat Kin will be published by Faber & Faber in the U.K. in the next year of so. At present, it's a rare commodity, but one certainly worth mentioning (and repeating when it has its second life with Faber & Faber).

Okay, so on to the review. Ben is in trouble. Some horrible men are pressuring his mom to sell her flat in a nearly abandoned area of London and they're resorting to some nasty and dangerous techniques. He also gets into a spot of trouble when he doesn't throw a pinball tournament as planned. To appease his troubled mother Ben agrees to join a Tae Kwon Do class at the local sports center.

At the same time, Tiffany wants to take anything but ballet on Thursday nights when she is supposed to be out of the house (date night). Tiffany hates ballet and is decidedly ungainly in the practice of dance. She sees an ad for a new class at the center--"Cat Kin: Explore your feline spirit, Cat lovers and the curious welcome." Tiffany decides to take this class instead. It's not as if her parents would notice--they're too busy with her little brother who has been diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy.

On the first Thursday of classes, Ben assumes Tiffany (in her sports clothing) is heading for the Tae Kwon Do class. When Mrs. Powell, the Cat Kin instructor, sweeps them away, he follows. What comes next is the first lesson in pashki, a study that "awakens the part of yourself that is like a cat."

What follows this intriguing and completely unique beginning is a fast-paced, smart mystery involving treetop chases, alternative medicines, secret laboratories, cat-napping, real estate fraud, and a conclusion to the mystery that caught me completely off-guard. The children of the Cat Kin class begin to move and act like cats in ways young readers will find amazing and inspirational.

Cat Kin is one of the most original middle-grade novels I've ever read. And it's suspenseful, intelligent, and just plain fun. Highly-recommended for kids ages 8-14.
While you're waiting for Cat Kin, check out Nick Green's website for more information. I'm off to hand Cat Kin to my daughter who has been pestering me for weeks for it.