Top critical review
Subversive and Unsuitable for Children--Parents Beware!
Reviewed in the United States on December 29, 2010
Oh. My. Goodness. I just received Catkin and I have to say, I am floored.
In this story, a "dark Lady" and her husband, who is constantly referred to as "the dark Lord" whose "power is great" and has the "power to bind" people to him, kidnap a sleeping child. The kidnappers--who are "immortal" and live in a "splendid palace full of light and glittering with gems" where they hold "revels"--"loved the child" and feed her "only the choicest morsels." "Life was very good" here for the kidnapped child, on whom the kidnappers put a spell so that she doesn't remember her home.
The cat in the story, Catkin, was given to the parents of the child by a "wise woman" who
negotiates a deal with the kidnappers so that the kidnappers can have access to the child after the child is returned to her home, even though the child should be safe free and clear due to Catkin's courage and skill in beating the kidnappers at their own game. The "wise woman" then returns the child and Catkin to the rightful mother and father and tells them they have to share custody with the Dark Lord. The mother and father are "generous in their joy, and gave their consent to the sharing," and after that their farms "flourished."
END SPOILER ALERT
All right. Is there anyone out there who isn't the least bit concerned with this story?
Do you really want to get a book for your child that teaches that kidnappers live in palaces where life is good and kidnappers "love" their little victim?
If your child was kidnapped, would you feel "generous in your joy" and give your "consent to sharing" custody with the kidnappers?
How does this story possibly make sense? How could it possibly be published in this day and age? How is this not, at best, subversive, if not outright satanic?
I admit: I skimmed over the reader's reviews. I saw everyone gave it 5 stars (but one person--who gave it 4) along with the official blessing from Publisher's Weekly and the School Library Journal (!), took one look at the incredibly beautiful watercolor illustrations--and make no doubt about it, they are stunningly beautiful--and said sign me up! Perhaps I, too, can make a deal with the Dark Lord for some material success in exchange for the soul of my only child! Oh, that's called a pact with the devil! Ooops! Nevermind!
Seriously, I had a long discussion with this with my husband about why, exactly, this particular story is so disturbing. I admit to loving such oldtime classics as Hansel and Gretel and Rumplestilskin. My husband pointed out that in those old classics, the Bad are obviously Bad--they are undesireable and there is no ambiguity about them. Yes, that is simplistic and problemmatic in its own right, but do we really want to cast a humanitarian light on KIDNAPPERS, for goodness sake?
I have never--never--been as horrified as I am by this book. I read it all the way through hoping I was mistaken about it, but make no bones about it, this is one Bad Vibe book. I don't think I've thrown away a book in my life, but I don't want it in my house and would certainly not pass it along to anyone. Out it goes!