From Publishers Weekly
A Japanese legend celebrating the importance of art and spirit receives worthy treatment in this stunning volume. Too frail to work the family farm, young Kenji is sent to a monastery to train as an acolyte, but he can't resist his passion for painting. Expelled, he must find his own way in a forbidding world where, one terrifying night, his very real cat paintings rescue him from the Goblin Rat. Levine's precise and evocative language packs graceful surprises ("His steps crumbled ash-white leaves at the threshold") and is ably complemented by Clement's delicate, haunting watercolors. A sense of veiled mystery, of the surreal, permeates his art, as if it has been painted in layers of meaning for the reader to interpret. Pastel colors have a gossamer quality; as Kenji follows winding paths through mists and blowing leaves, he seems to enter a dreamscape. The effect is both beautiful and unnerving. Children will love the cats who hover everywhere, finely etched, eyes gleaming. The book's exquisite design includes decorative borders, a parchment look and a Japanese character, explained in a glossary, heading each page. Ages 5-up.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Grade 2-6-Kenji, a frail farm boy with artistic talent, is taken to live in a monastery by his poor mother. One priest encourages him to draw cats, at which he becomes adept. When the head priest evicts him (for drawing too much), the boy seeks shelter in a deserted temple that is haunted by a rat goblin. In the hall he finds white screens and paints cats on them. During the night, the painted animals come to life and destroy the goblin. Kenji settles permanently in the temple and becomes a great artist, specializing in felines. Levine's retelling is not an improvement on Lafcadio Hearn's version in Japanese Fairy Tales (Liveright, 1953; o.p.), but it has charms of its own, including an especially strong evocation of atmosphere. Clement's superb acryllic illustrations, done in four-color halftones, perfectly capture the moods and tensions of the story. A masterly collaboration.
John Philbrook, San Francisco Public Library
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.