Haven: A Small Cat’s Big Adventure by Megan Wagner Lloyd. Candlewick Press, 2022. 9781536216578
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: Animal fiction
What did you like about the book? Haven is a small cat who doesn’t remember her life before being taken in by the kindly Ma Millie. Haven and her elderlyhuman have a quiet, comfortable co-existence in a cottage near the forest, only occasionally interrupted by Millie’s solicitous neighbor Jacob, who stops by with firewood and other treats. When Ma Millie falls seriously ill, Haven knows she needs to find Jacob to get help. Although very much an indoor cat, she bravely escapes out a window. When she gets to Jacob’s house and sees he is not home, his cows suggest she look for him in the nearby town. But how to find the town? She sets off uncertainly, and soon encounters a fox who grudgingly agrees to accompany her through the forest in exchange for the promise of daily snacks from Ma Millie’s kitchen upon their return. The unlikely pair navigate their way through a river and down and up a ravine, all the while evading a ferocious bobcat (the fox can sense the presence of the predator but Haven cannot). Their eventual arrival in town leads to more disappointment, and their return trip through the forest brings even more danger as the bobcat at last catches up with them. Despite her domestic ways, Haven knows enough about feline behavior to confront the wild cat, but is still unsure about how to find Jacob and worried if she will get home to Ma Millie in time.
The third person narration varies in perspective; the primary focus is on Haven, but occasional chapters about the fox and the bobcat provide insight into their behaviors and animal instincts. While the story starts off gently with a soothing description of Haven’s cozy life with Ma Millie, the small cat’s adventure through the forest is full of dangerous and scary moments, and readers will frequently find themselves on edge as they worry about the cat’s survival. Readers will also worry, at first, about the tentative alliance between Haven and the fox, but the friendship that develops between them is central to the book and to Haven’s growth from timid house cat to courageous wilderness explorer. Haven’s mission to save her human may not turn out the way she hoped, but discovering her own strength and making a true friend prove to be worthy results.
Anything you did not like about the book? I was really expecting a cute, cozy story with a small amount of mild adventure, so the sadness and the violence caught me a little off guard. Teachers, parents and librarians will need to be cognizant of this when recommending it to kids looking for “cat stories.”
To whom would you recommend this book? Animal lovers in grades 3 and up will appreciate this classic adventure story along the lines of The Incredible Journey or Pax.
Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Fiction
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.
Date of review: August 26, 2022
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