Review: The Cats of Tanglewood Forest

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Cats of Tanglewood ForestThe Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles de Lint
on March 5, 2013
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

The magic is all around you, if only you open your eyes....

Lillian Kindred spends her days exploring the Tanglewood Forest, a magical, rolling wilderness that she imagines to be full of fairies. The trouble is, Lillian has never seen a wisp of magic in her hills--until the day the cats of the forest save her life by transforming her into a kitten. Now Lillian must set out on a perilous adventure that will lead her through untamed lands of fabled creatures--from Old Mother Possum to the fearsome Bear People--to find a way to make things right.

In this whimsical, original folktale written and illustrated throughout in vibrant full color by two celebrated masters of modern fantasy, a young girl's journey becomes an enchanting coming-of-age story about magic, friendship, and the courage to shape one's own destiny.

First Sentence: “Once there was a forest of hickory and beech, sprucy-pine, birch and oak.”


Sorry! My cat, Perseus, wanted to share his thoughts, but he’s not so good at typing. Allow me to interpret. He says that cats are in fact magical and that Charles de Lint and Charles Vess are very wise and talented men. I happen to agree with Percy’s assessment. The Cats of Tanglewood Forest is a fantastic read and a feast for the eyes.

Usually, I don’t talk much about the physical book itself in my reviews, but I have to spend some time on just how incredibly breathtaking The Cats of Tanglewood Forest is. As you can see from the cover, the illustrations are beautiful. My only quibble with Vess’ artwork would be that his people look a bit creepy at times, but he excels at other animals and nature. All throughout the book, his illustrations appear in full color and it’s worth taking time to really look at them. As an added bonus, if you remove the dust jacket, there’s a different illustration underneath, and it’s beautiful as well. Everything about the packaging of this book is beautiful.

The movie The Aristocats includes a song called “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat.” Turns out that’s not true. Young Lillian is out wandering the forest near her home one day when she gets tired and settles down to a nap. While she’s sleeping, a poisonous snake bites her. As she’s laying there dying, the wild cats of the forest come upon her and decide, at the risk of angering the Father of Cats, to save this girl who leaves milk out for them. The cats have magic, as much in the forest does. They turn her into a kitten, which sets her on a journey to recover her girl body and to do so with her life just as she left it (minus the snakebite).

Unsurprisingly, the non-human animals really steal the show. My personal favorite is the fox, T. H. Reynolds, a very fine and upstanding gent. Though naturally a predator to kittens, he becomes Lillian’s ally in her quest. He’s funny, sly, and completely adorable. I love that the animals all work together, but retain their individual natures, not really coming across as particularly anthopomorphized, but more like the reader can now understand their way of communication.

One of the main themes woven neatly throughout The Cats of Tanglewood Forest is that of being kind to those in the world around you. Lillian leaves extra chicken feed out for the undomesticated birds, milk out for the wild cats, and biscuits out for the Apple Tree Man. She doesn’t do this in expectation of help, but, in the end, her generosity earns her help when she needs it. Lillian’s trusting nature and kindness are what make her capable of achieving her happy ending. De Lint gets this message across without any sort of preaching at all.

Whether the story itself interests you or not, it’s worth picking up a copy for the gorgeous illustrations, and you just might find yourself sucked into the story as well. This is an excellent story to read with younger children or for middle grade independent readers.

Favorite Quote:

“‘A story a body’s never heard before can be just as good as coin. Better, if it’s a good one.'”

11 responses to “Review: The Cats of Tanglewood Forest”

  1. Shane says:

    this sounds interesting. good review.

  2. LOOOOL @ your cat typing! ahah that made me crack up! This sounds so cute and awesome! Will totally recommend it to my younger cousin! Great review!
    – Farah @ MajiBookshelf

  3. Aristocats reference FTW!

    This sounds really good, I love MG reads and I think this one could really strike my fancy. I definitely want to at least pick it up at the book store and check out all the awesome drawings that you mentioned, but we both know that I will then end up buying it. You are bad for me Christina!

    • Christina says:

      Heck yes! I love old school Disney movies. Can’t beat ’em!

      You totally need to look at the illustrations. If you buy it, I’m sure your mini-mes will love it.

  4. I had no doubt that the animal would steal the show – they always do in books and movies. My cat who lies next to me oh so cutely can attest to do if he could be bothered to raise his paw. By the way, terrific review, Percy! :)))

  5. Heidi says:

    I LOVE your enthusiasm for this one, Christina! I already kind of wanted to read it, but your (and your cat’s) excitement has me really wanting to pick it up. I LOVE MG with good illustrations, and full color ones are so rare–I’ll certainly have to track a physical copy of this one down.

    • Christina says:

      Awww, yay. It was just so cute, and a little bit creepy (fairy tale an all). The illustrations are just so well done. Even the first letter of each chapter is illustrated with an animal and it’s just all gorgeous.

  6. So I was already intrigued by what I’ve heard about this book, and now you’re selling me on the illustrations too… Sounds delightful! De Lint is one of those authors who can be good or bad…but when he’s good, he’s VERY good!

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