From School Library Journal
Grade 4–9—Writing in the voice of a smart, sensitive 13-year-old boy, Newbery tells the story of a blended family whose members share a sense of love and purpose that carries them through difficult times. The birth of a new baby is a happy occasion and the Bowmans, or, as they like to call themselves, the Bowpersons, rejoice when baby Jennie joins her half brothers, Jamie and Josh. Both boys experience angst over the attention being paid to her; for Josh, the feelings are normal and easily superseded by his love for his sister. However, for Jamie, the addition of Jennie to his home with his mother and stepfather, combined with the announcement that his father and his girlfriend and her son are moving in together, pushes him into selective mutism. As the story unfolds, Josh's well-developed voice evokes the love he and Jamie feel from all three parents, while expressing the feelings of children and teens when they have to deal with changing families. Throughout, Josh's fascination with cats large and small, tame and wild, is developed through his inserts of facts and drawings in his "Book of Cats." In addition to the likable characters, the story provides an example of people working through problems without yelling or abuse. It is refreshing to read about this loving family, reminiscent of those created by Madeleine L'Engle.—Wendy Smith-D'Arezzo, Loyola College, Baltimore, MD
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Josh is fascinated by cats—all kinds of cats; in fact, he keeps a Book of Cats, a scrapbook, actually, in which he records feline facts and pastes postcards and pictures from magazines. So why is it his younger brother, Jamie, to whom a lion at the zoo speaks? Or so the boy claims before he then stops speaking himself and begins behaving as if he has been possessed by the lion’s spirit. Josh is baffled and troubled by his brother’s increasingly erratic behavior and by the many changes that continue to visit his family. The explanation that Newbery ultimately offers for Jamie’s behavior is psychologically sound but seems a bit facile and almost flat after the many elements of seeming magical realism that she earlier introduces into her story. Nevertheless, her characters are sympathetic and well realized, and the elements of psychological suspense will hold readers’ interest as her story unfolds. Grades 5-7. --Michael Cart