Pearl lives in 201. She’s a firefighter. I follow her from room to room while she waters her plants. Her apartment is a jungle. I’m a jungle cat.
I scratch at Mario’s door until he opens it. He lives in 202. He’s a chef and always has something good to eat.
“Hey, Bob!” he says. “Hungry? Do you want a sardine?”
Jungle cats love sardines.
Kevin lives in 301. His door is always open. He’s always working on his computer.
“Bob!” he says. “Thirsty?”
I pretend the bowl is a watering hole deep in the jungle. I’m a jungle cat.
I purr outside my door until Pippa opens up.
“Bob!” she says. “You’re home.”
I nuzzle up against her leg. Pippa is my person. I am her cat. We live in 302.
Me and Pippa like to read. Sometimes we fall asleep when we are reading. Sometimes the sound of the street wakes us up.
“It’s a jungle out there, Bob,” says Pippa.
A jungle? I like the sound of that!
Jungle Cat is based on a true story about an apartment cat named Georgia who not only forged connections with the residents in the apartment complex she lived in but even inspired an operetta! Bob, the cat in this story, does not inspire an operetta, but he does create meaningful connections with the apartment residents and spurs them to action when his adventure becomes more than he can handle. Bob wanders around and visits the various apartment dwellers in their complex while pretending he’s a jungle cat; he explores the lush greenery in firefighter Pearl’s apartment, feasts on sardines from chef Mario in 202, and visits the ‘jungle watering hole’ at Kevin’s place in 301 before making his way home to his person, Pippa, in apartment number 302. With Pippa, Bob lives the cliché indoor cat life – reading and napping with his person – but he still dreams of being a jungle cat. When Pippa refers to the street noises outside their apartment as being ‘a jungle out there’, Bob decides he likes the sound of that and decides to go on an adventure! Unfortunately, Bob’s adventure goes awry, and he needs help from all his friends in the apartment to get him out of his predicament.
Jungle Cat is a beautifully illustrated book with bright colours and detailed pictures; readers could spend more time looking at the pictures getting to know the characters and settings than they could reading the story. Readers might recognize Lugo’s distinct illustration style from books like If You Were a Princess and Pink is for Everybody with the combination of vibrant paints, coloured pencils, and inks. Lugo’s illustrations are essential to Jungle Cat since the story, itself, is quite bare of details (which is to be expected when narrated by a cat), but the readers experience everything that Bob sees as opposed to hearing Bob describe it. Andrew Larsen, author of well-known children’s books such as A Squiggly Story, Another Squiggly Story, and The Imaginary Garden, relays a simple story from Bob’s point of view encompassing his thoughts of himself as a jungle cat and how he yearns for adventure. Larson also uses a very straightforward approach to teaching readers the importance of asking for help when you need it via Bob who meows loudly enough to draw the attention of his apartment friends when he finds himself stuck in a tree.
As a read-aloud, Jungle Cat would be most enjoyed by Kindergarten and Grade 1 students while Grade 2 students will likely enjoy reading this independently. All these age groups and the adults reading the story will delight in exploring the pictures for hidden gems that can be discovered each time they look at a page anew. This book will obviously be most appealing to readers with an affinity for cats but may cause confusion for those who have never lived in apartment buildings and may be wondering why cats get to wander around to whichever apartments they please. Jungle Cat will resonate with a very specific group of people and will likely become a favourite go-to for those readers, but it will probably be a once or twice read for most others.
Dawn Opheim, an avid reader with a Masters Degree in Teacher-Librarianship, is from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.