The title character in Frans Vischer's Fuddles is a fat, spoiled cat who develops a longing for adventure. Fuddles, very much an indoor cat, makes his escape one day, and learns that the outside world is much more challenging than he had ever imagined.
This is essentially the same story as in Anita Lobel's Nini Lost and Found (a favorite in my house), with a similar ending. However, where Lobel focuses on the cozy and scary aspects of the situation, Vischer (a Disney animator) takes a humorous approach. Fuddles, when still indoors, imagines himself "scaling soaring mountains and fighting ferocious foes." Once out of doors, his attempt to catch some birds lands him in a dirty birdbath ("last night's pork chops weighed him down."). He is dismayed to learn that "couches were easier to climb than trees" (who knew?). And when he is actually confronted by a ferocious foe, well, things don't go quite the way he might have hoped.
I personally found the resolution of the book a little too easy (Fuddles gets found, no heroism on his part, and learns his lesson). I think that Vischer could have done more there. But I still enjoyed Fuddles' journey.
Vischer's illustrations are lively and amusing. Fuddles really comes through as a character, his complaisance gradually replaced by determination, and then by fear and uncertainty. Most of the page spreads are quite active, with Fuddles waving his paws in the air, or scratching a tree trunk, or falling with a broken branch. Visher's experience as an animator - someone who sees stories in a visual way - comes through clearly.
I particularly enjoyed the way that the text, related from Fuddles' perspective, doesn't always match the pictures, lending a subtle humor. For instance:
"Like a cheetah chasing a gazelle, he made his speedy getaway."
The fat houescat, while charming, and certainly leaping out of the doorway, is no cheetah. Later, Fuddles decides on "A short catnap in the neighbor's yard". The astute young reader will notice a dog house, in Fuddles' vicinity, and predict what's going to happen next.
All in all, I think that kids, particularly those who love cats and/or laughing at the antics of the hapless, will enjoy Fuddles' adventures. Fuddles was published in 2011, and so may be available now in your school or local library. Recommended for ages 4-8.
Publisher: Aladdin (@SimonKids)
Publication Date: May 3, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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