All about kittens
"Wishing for Kittens," by Ursula Ferro, Illustrated by Ruth Adams. Marti Books. 2006. $12.95
There is something about seeing the world through a child's eyes that simplifies and cleanses the view, while heightening the imagination. The most effective children's books are those that gently guide young readers through the bends and twists of whatever landscape is being drawn.
In her second book on cats, "Wishing for Kittens," West Tisbury author and publisher Ursula Ferro continues the adventures of Tanny, the gray cat that was introduced in "Tanny's Meow," the first book in the series. This time, however appealing the characters, the landscape on which she centers her story is narrow and confining.
The family, Mama Mariah, Mommy Ginny, and their children Rachel and Tim decide to arrange for their pet cat, Tanny, to have a litter of kittens before they have her spayed. The veterinarian, Dr. Chew, is consulted, and provides detailed and explicit age appropriate information about spaying, cats in heat, breeding, and caring for newborn kittens. The last chapter in the book is made up of basic questions and practical answers about the process.
As with her other book, Mrs. Ferro maintains a best-of-all-possible-worlds tone as she tells her story. The world is a happy place. Life goes along smoothly and problems come coupled with quick solutions. No one yells, gets angry or very upset. The issues that arise are solved with calm reason, patient consideration and polite discussion. These are please-and-thank-you children, being raised by by-the-book parents.
No issue is made of Rachel and Tim having two mothers. The same sex parents are nicely presented as offhandedly and as matter-of-factly as are any parents in children's stories. That alone makes the book constructive.
Adding to the soft, cheery message are the illustrations by former art teacher and West Tisbury Treehouse Gallery owner Ruth Adams. Her simple black-and-white drawings depict both people and cats with friendly round, smiling faces. Well-suited to the story, they make a positive contribution to the book, appearing selectively throughout the chapters.
All the lessons are offered subtly, by demonstrated examples, rather than descriptions and theories: the children's chores; sharing; and of course, what to do with the kittens Tanny might have.
No problem. Rachel's friend Susie exclaims, "We could make posters together. Ask your moms. Ask them, if we find enough people to take kittens, would they let Tanny have kittens?"
Posters asking people to sign up for kittens are made and distributed, and the many applicants who sign are interviewed at length before choices are made.
For whatever grace is brought to the telling, readers might find themselves burdened by information so instructive to the specific topic. However, those who have a cat they might be thinking of breeding will appreciate the book as a compelling read.
Ms. Ferro has undertaken an ambitious project. As a child development consultant and someone who has worked with children for more than 30 years, her instincts are good, and it is obvious that the book is the result of much research and consideration.