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Catcall

Review

Catcall

Josh and his younger brother Jamie like to call themselves the "two Js," their dad's special nickname for them. They're about as close and loving as two siblings can be. But then their dad has to go and move in with his girlfriend Kim and her son Kevin. So have they now been replaced by the "two Ks"? To make matters more confusing, the boys' mother has gotten remarried to Mike, who's a great stepdad, and they've just had a new baby named Jennie. So are they now the two Js, or the three Js?

Despite their rapidly changing family geography, Josh and Jamie have always stuck together --- until one day, when formerly bright, funny Jamie retreats into himself, refusing to talk and shutting out the world. The boy who used to laugh at comedy programs on TV now is obsessed with a lion that he saw at a wildlife park, to the point that he insists on his family's calling him Leo.

Josh is pretty concerned about Jamie's unusual behavior and scared that the two Js aren't what they used to be. But Josh's love for his brother, and his own expertise on lions and other cats, might be just what Jamie needs to cope with the bewildering changes that have entered their lives.

All too often, stories dealing with children of divorce have an overriding negative tone, with parents and stepparents fighting and screaming among themselves, leaving the kids to sort out their emotions in the midst of a confusing environment. Josh's blended family, by contrast, is supportive, loving and ultimately positive. Linda Newbery's novel is refreshing in acknowledging the challenges of family change while still portraying a family whose love remains a steady and dependable constant in the children's lives.

Josh is also a refreshing character, a boy who revels in acquiring and collecting facts but isn't depicted as a nerd or a freak. "Facts are everywhere --- the only way not to find them would be to walk around with your eyes and ears shut," Josh says. Josh certainly keeps his eyes and ears wide open, and shares his knowledge with the reader in scrapbook entries that appear to have come straight from his homemade Book of Cats.

CATCALL is a realistic, optimistic portrayal of modern family life, one that shows that it's okay for kids to be smart, for kids to be sad, and for families to change --- and that with a lot of love, everything can turn out for the best.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on October 14, 2008

Catcall
by Linda Newbery

  • Publication Date: October 14, 2008
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: David Fickling Books
  • ISBN-10: 0385751648
  • ISBN-13: 9780385751643