As someone who reads any book about cats that she comes across, whether fiction or non-fiction, for children or for adults, there are some that are extra special and Princess Puffybottom – And Darryl by Susin Nielsen is one of them. The story is about a cat who is Princess of her domain but is dismayed by the addition of a puppy to her kingdom. The puppy is messy and uncouth but worst of all he takes attention away from the Princess. Princess Puffybottom knows that this intruder needs to be banished somewhere far faraway. She tries everything to do that including hypnosis, trickery and sabotage but nothing works – it looks like Darryl is there to stay. Princess Puffybottom is sad but no one even notices – except Darryl. Slowly the Princess learns that Darryl has some redeeming features. He worships her, puts her on a pedestal (literally!) and even helps her get extra food. Princess Puffybottom comes to understand that there is room for both a Princess and a companion in her kingdom and life is good again. But what is that, that her human subjects are bringing home on the last page?
May I introduce you to the inhabitants of our fruit bowl here that you’ll find in Fruit Bowl, by Mark Hoffmann: Apple, Peach, Banana, Lemon, Orange, Pear, Strawberry, Grapes, Lime, Blueberry, and Tomato. Wait – tomato? Slightly creepy (just look at those faces) but ever so adorable (in that “it’s weird but I love it” kind of way) – complete with arguably some of the best puns of all time in children’s fiction – Tomato makes his case to the fruit bowl denizens that tomatoes are, indeed, a fruit. But why stop there? It’s not just tomatoes! A whole lineup of other unlikely fruits gravitate in line to the fruit bowl from the crisper in the fridge, finally gaining the ability to be recognized for what they truly are. Read it to find out what else belongs in the fruit bowl!
A delightful read, though I have to admit with a somewhat ambiguous takeaway; is Hoffmann just tackling the issue of what makes a fruit a fruit, or are we actually talking about in-groups and out-groups? Also, why are vegetables presented as being lesser than fruits? Why does everyone want to be a fruit? Or do they just want to be recognized for who/what they really are? I’m also interested in why Tomato is male, because do tomatoes (the fruit) even have sexes?*, but that might be a discussion for another time – I absolutely adored this book from beginning to end, literally cover to cover.
So… I’m officially a fan. I mean, cats, clans, intrigue and the ugly side of ambition, what’s not to love? If you haven’t guessed by now which cat series I’ve finally dipped my toes into, it’s the Warriors series by Erin Hunter. Into the Wild is fast-paced with a plot that thickens with each page you turn, pulling you deeper and deeper into feline territory.
While our own coming of ages might not (have) resemble(d) Firepaw’s too much* in terms of fighting for our lives amongst kitty clans’ claims for land and power, Into the Wild is certainly a novel that finely balances some of the injustices of life and how to remain true to yourself in spite of these moments.
So please don’t be surprised if/when you see me writing and/or singing eulogies dedicated to beloved fallen cats (as I’m sure will happen throughout the series). Think of it as a kitty Game of Thrones: just because a character is dear to the audience and to other characters within the novel, doesn’t mean it’s immune to being killed off by the author.