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Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl

Review

Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl

In his most recent books, THE NEDDIAD and THE YGGYSSEY, Daniel Pinkwater has reinvented the road trip/quest novel, starring some pretty unlikely protagonists and featuring some truly outlandish situations. Now, in ADVENTURES OF A CAT-WHISKERED GIRL, Pinkwater broadens his world, moving from 1950s-era Los Angeles to Poughkeepsie, New York, where a girl from another plane of existence encounters some pretty wacky characters --- including, possibly, another version of herself.

That girl is Big Audrey, who used to live with her uncle, has no recollection of her parents, and entered our plane of existence thanks to the help of Iggie, Neddie, Seamus and Crazy Wig. She spends some time in Los Angeles, where she is introduced to such wonders as doughnuts ("Doughnuts are not unknown where I come from, but they are not used as food."). But, after a time, she longs for a change of scene and wanders far afield to Poughkeepsie, New York, where she easily finds a job at a bookshop specializing in extraterrestrials, because the proprietors are convinced she herself is an alien. Big Audrey is pretty sure she's not, but she is kind of odd-looking, with those cat whiskers and all.

Besides her employers, the Gleybners, Big Audrey meets some other unusual denizens of Poughkeepsie. There's Professor Tag of Vassar, who's a little…unstable: "Once a year, Professor Tag would go nuts and they would move him up to the loony bin for a while --- then he'd get over being nuts and they'd bring him back to teach his classes." At the insane asylum, Big Audrey also meets Molly, a girl with an unusual heritage, and the two of them encounter Chicken Nancy, an old wise woman who tells them tales of the horrific Wolluf and of the menacing Muffin Man, also known as "Matthias Krenzer, the old Dutch censor, who stole the censer, and became an old Dutch cleanser, who later opened a small muffinery." Chicken Nancy also shows Big Audrey a peculiar picture --- of a girl named Elizabeth Van Vreemdeling, who looks exactly like Big Audrey, cat whiskers and all.

On a quest to uncover the strange occurrences after dark in Poughkeepsie, Big Audrey and Molly encounter Wild Things, bizarre boats, the world's tiniest giant, and even the horrific Wolluf --- who's not so scary after all, at least not to Audrey. But Big Audrey's journey --- and especially new information about the mysterious Elizabeth --- prompts her to want more answers about where she came from and where, in the end, she might be going.

Like Daniel Pinkwater's other books, ADVENTURES OF A CAT-WHISKERED GIRL practically defies description. His unusual sense of humor, his incredible talent for creating bizarre characters and preposterous predicaments, and his ability to orchestrate all this zaniness and hilarity while still developing credible characters who elicit readers' sympathy and silliness in equal measure are reasons enough for potential readers to set aside any doubts and just dive right in to Pinkwater's world. His latest novel ends with a cliffhanger, too, as Audrey and Molly set off on the next chapter of their ever more ridiculous, hilarious and surprisingly sweet adventure.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on May 2, 2011

Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl
by Daniel Pinkwater

  • Publication Date: May 2, 2011
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Sandpiper
  • ISBN-10: 0547550022
  • ISBN-13: 9780547550022