The hero of this farmyard fantasy, Merlin, is not a typical kitten. No one knows who his natural mother is, but Guinevere, the oldest hen in the barn, is perfectly willing to take the frail kitten under her wing. Despite the genuine love that Guinevere showers on him, though, Merlin can't grow and thrive on seeds and grains.
When a little girl visits the farm, Guinevere grasps at the chance to give Merlin a home where he will be safe and cared for as a cat should be. Merlin never forgets the love Guinevere gave him and the debt he owes her. He longs to see her again and give her something in return. And when he finally returns to the farm, he is able to help Guinevere realize her dreams.
Stephanie Simpson McLellan
is the author of The Chicken Cat, winner of both the Ruth Schwartz Award and the Mr. Christie's Book Award.
was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. He has written and illustrated a number of titles, including Gummytoes, Wake Up Henry Rooster and Good to be Small, which won the Mr. Christie's Book Award Silver Seal. His picture book debut with author Stephanie McLellan, The Chicken Cat, resulted in both the Mr. Christie's Book Award and the Ruth Schwartz Award. Sean lives near Orangeville, Ontario, with his wife and daughter.
"It is gratifying, then, to find a clever and pleasant book for young children featuring dubious mothers. . . This quirky and energetic book is a triumph for its author and illustrator, both newcomers to the field of children's books. McLellan is a fine storyteller, combining a matter-of-fact narrative style — life's imperfections are fixed with a clear-eyed gaze — with elegant flourishes in turns of phrase and twists of plot. Cassidy's coloured-pencil illustrations offer an excellent complement to the text, heightening both its pathos and humour. Softly shaded colours play up the story's gentle aspects, while the judicious use of accent colour heightens its exuberance. The animals' facial expressions and postures are humorously vivid throughout, particularly at the great moment of liberation when kitten, then chicken, take to the open skies."
— The Quill and Quire starred review
"A chicken cat? Well, yes. Merlin, a small, bundle of ginger fluff in his first appearance in this picture book, is a cat born in a barn and raised by a chicken. He was named Merlin by the denizens of the barn because he appeared in their midst as if by magic. By rights, it should have been Allison, the six-toed cat, who took him on, but it was Guinevere, the oldest hen, who took the kitten under her wing. In time, Merlin and Guinevere come to feel that each was born for the other, and by this delightful book's end, Merlin's magic has wrought miracles for them both."
— The Globe and Mail
"Cassidy's illustrations, rendered in watercolor, gouache and colored pencil, add spirit to the tale."
— School Library Journal
"Posture is everything as any crabby, old school teacher will tell you. Posture is also important in picture books: not as in -sit up straight at your desk, - not as in posturing politicians, but as in body language, which speaks volumes in a single pose. Illustrator Sean Cassidy uses posture and physical expression to a maximum in The Chicken Cat. Stephanie Simpson McLellan's imaginative story about Guinevere - a hen who raises a pathetic stray kitten named Merlin - soars with Cassidy's illustrations"
— The National Post