From School Library Journal
Grade 4–7—After being dumped in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park by owners who have an allergic child, a black cat is forced to fend for herself. Dark quickly befriends Rattail, a raccoon, and Casablanca, another stray, who teach her about the natural order in the park. This includes humans, whom the animals label as Cores (homeless park residents), Warms (friendly), Dangers (not to be trusted), and Blanks (oblivious to the animals and one another). Skeptical of humans after "the Dumping," Dark begins to change her mind when she encounters Warms Jack and Angie, who feed the strays, and especially Jessie, the son of a powerful district attorney. When coyotes begin to appear, both humans and animals are alarmed. Dark and her friends must help one another and adapt to the new threat to stay alive. Pulling elements of the story from her real-life experiences with cat rescue, Grabien touches on some animal-rights themes, leaving them open-ended for readers to consider. Plot development and pacing are sufficient, keeping the story moving along, and characters are fairly well defined, but the conclusion may fall flat for some readers. While young naturalists and fans of Erin Hunter's "Warriors" series (HarperCollins) may find this title of interest, the average characterization, development, and conclusion make Dark's Tale
an additional purchase for most collections.—Travis Jonker, Dorr Elementary School, MI
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Dark, a house cat abandoned in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, must learn to survive in her new habitat. Befriended by a raccoon, she learns to recognize park inhabitants she must fear, like the “crazy-bad” people, and those she can trust, including a wise owl named Memorie and a magical woman in rags who calls herself Streetwise Sal. After coyotes come to the park, threatening every animal down the food chain, Dark struggles to survive and to figure out where she belongs. Written in first person from Dark’s point of view, the novel creates a believable natural world, where predators hunt smaller animals and a cat must rely on her senses, her skills, and her friends for survival. Two kindly humans, who arrive nightly to feed the animals, occasionally serve as mouthpieces for the author’s views, breaking the flow of the narrative. In an afterword, Grabien tells of going nightly with her husband to feed feral cats in Golden Gate Park. Children who love cats will enjoy Dark’s adventures. Grades 4-6. --Carolyn Phelan