A children’s story: The Tygrine Cat by Inbali Iserles
Two years ago, I was commissioned to write a review about this children’s book. At the time, it struck me as amateurish and even rather silly. My son read it too, and agreed.
However, just the other day, he said, “Remember that book about the cat with all those powers? I think about it all the time.”
You know what? So do I.
While the review that follows is negative, it’s only fair to go on record to say if a kid’s book–silly or not–keeps popping into your head after two years, there’s probably something really interesting about it.
Inbali Iserles was flicking through an encyclopaedia of cat breeds one day, and began to imagine a rivalry between feline dynasties. Relying heavily on tales of cats in ancient mythologies, The Tygrine Cat is the story of Mati, a catling sent away by his mother in order that their dynasty and the future of all cats may be preserved. He travels aboard a ship to a foreign land and is taken in by a group of feral cats who live in the marketplace. Unknown to all, Mati is being pursued by a powerful assassin. He must learn to trust himself and unleash the forces of good that reside within him.
That The Tygrine Cat is Iserles first novel is evident. The narrative is clumsy and uneven. At times the cats seem to reside in the ancient world; at others they inhabit the marketplace of any contemporary town, dodging trainers and stilletos, gulping down bagels with smears of cream cheese. The feral cats have regular town meetings (rigidly adhering to parliamentary order), lessons in cat etiquette, and even national anthems. They are as prejudiced and insulated—and as predictable—as any small town congregation. Is Iserles attempting a fable perhaps? The cats understand quite a lot about the human world, including motivation, greed, even absent-mindedness; and yet, improbably, they don’t have a concept for tinned cat food or for dogs.
While the narrative is weak over all, Iserles has more success with the plot, which pads along on four paws and luckily seems to have nine lives. The children to whom this story will most appeal are likely too young to read it on their own; unfortunately, it isn’t one that will hold the interest of the adult who must read it aloud.
Review first published in The Courier-Mail in January 2008.