Kirsten Reviews: The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles de Lint
The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles de Lint, Illustrated by Charles Vess
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.
While The Cats of Tanglewood Forest is intended for a younger audience, anyone who likes fairy tales and folklore, or animals will find something they enjoy in this story. The book, written by by Charles de Lint and illustrated by Charles Vess is a wonderful blending of story and illustrations, and is a pleasure to read and peruse.
The appeal of fairytales is both in the fantastic elements, as well as the way that they can tell one story, and teach a lesson at the same time.
The protagonist of the book is a young girl named Lillian, who begins her adventure in the woods behind her aunt’s farm after following a deer into the woods. Along the way, Lillian meets a number of interesting creatures, and also finds out what happens when a person makes choices, how the results affect others, and the need to correct mistakes and right wrongs.
Lillian doesn’t just go on a journey as a young girl; after being bitten by a snake and rescued by the stray cats that she has been feeding, she also takes on a cat form, and even has animal companions that help her. One of these is a fox that is mischievous, but a good guide. Along the way, Lillian needs the help of Old Mother Possum, and learns that asking for something and getting what you want are two different things, and everything has a cost.
The pairing of Vess’ art and de Lint’s writing are a wonderful combination, and while the story is interesting, it’s the illustrations that truly complete it. The other thing that really makes the story stand out, and feel like it’s not completely unfamiliar, but has that edge of ‘just outside of reality’ that all fairytales and folklore have is the setting. Woods have always been great settings for stories, and this one gives Lillian a world to explore, and one that she can continue to learn about, even if she’s not having adventures with the animals. In its own way, the woods and other places that Lillian explores are their own characters, just as important to the plot as anything else.