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*But Who Will Bell the Cats?* by Cynthia Von Buhler
But Who Will Bell the Cats?
by Cynthia Von Buhler
Grades PreK-1 32 pages Houghton Mifflin September 2009 Hardcover    

Cynthia Von Buhler provides a clever and witty take on the age-old question from Aesop’s fables - “But who will bell the cats?” - in the book of the same name.

In a dark, beautiful castle high upon a hill lives a princess with her eight pampered and not-so-nice cats; in the dingy cellar below live Mouse and his dear friend Brown Bat. While the cats dine at banquets and sleep in soft, perfumed beds, Mouse and Brown Bat make do with crumbs that fall through the floorboard and makeshift beds devised from matchboxes and smelly old socks. Some of the pages show the contrasting lives of the denizens of the upstairs and that of the cellar in two split images, which makes for an interesting and even amusing counterpoint.

Mouse is determined to make his way upstairs to avail himself of the luxurious life enjoyed by the cats. To do that, he must attach bells around the cats’ collars to serve as a warning of their proximity. This proves to be a perilous task (requiring frequent rescuing by Brown Bat) until Mouse finally hits upon an ingenious way to bell the cats.

Von Buhler has created an elegant, richly textured and detailed rendering of the interior of the castle. The unusual depth and layering to the artwork was achieved by creating original 3-D sets that were populated with paper cutout figures and photographed to achieve the desired visual effect. The multimedia collage art, edged in gilt and crafted with incredible attention to detail, makes for a strikingly gorgeous fairy tale book. The simple text does its job - which is to say, to move the story forward while not detracting from the artwork that is the real star here.

No detail is missed in the making of this book: in case the dust jacket gets lost or mangled as often happens with children’s books, the inside cover of the book features beautiful art so that the book can be displayed even without the dust jacket. This is a book to buy and read over and over again.

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  Usha Reynolds/2009 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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