Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book Review: Claws by Mike Grinti and Rachel Grinti

Claws by Mike Grinti and Rachel Grinti
Release Date: September 1, 2012
Publisher: Scholastic 
Pages: 256
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

In a contemporary fairytale as irresistible as catnip, one girl discovers that some magic cuts deep... Emma's sister is missing. Her parents have spent all their savings on the search. And now the family has no choice but to live in a ramshackle trailer park on the edge of the forest, next door to down-and-out harpies, hags, and trolls. Emma wonders if she'll ever see Helena, and if she'll ever feel happy, again.
Then she makes a friend. A smooth-talking, dirty-furred cat named Jack. He's got a razor-sharp plan to rescue Emma's sister. He just wants one small favor in return...


This is a talking cat book

And I love talking cat books! Fictional cats are almost always arrogant, swaggering, sarcastic and, on the surface, kinda shaky on their trustworthiness. Thinking on it, I guess that also describes most of the fictional guys I like, but without the swoon. Because they're cats.

The cat in this book is no exception. His name is Jack (and that name is like auto cool points. Seriously, can you think of a fictional Jack who isn't at least a little awesome?), he's definitely keeping secrets and he has Cat Attitude with capital letters.

One of my favorite lines wasn't even in the book, but rather on the back cover (why wasn't it in the book?? I hope it made it in the final version) where Emma, our heroine, is trying to empathize with Jack's loss of cat magic by sharing that she has lost something too: her sister (who has disappeared thus sparking the quest part of the book). Jack replies:

"Oh, please. We're talking about cat magic, the most powerful magic in the world. What good is a sister?"

And that's only the start.

Emma gets ALL the friendship bracelets

Emma is one of my absolute favorite type of characters. She isn't particularly strong or kick butt or anything like that, and she has a meek streak I can totally relate with. But she's the type of girl who will rise to a challenge, even if she's maybe trembling in fear a little and would rather be doing something else. When push comes to shove, Emma does what needs to be done and she's spurred on by the love she has for her family and friends.

Part of Jack's sneaky plan includes changing Emma in ways I found most unexpected but entirely fun. I loved tagging along with her transformation and seeing how she learned to use her new abilities. Jack's, erm, interesting teaching methods made for some situations that were both perilously tense and straight up fun.

Best of all, I didn't see many of them coming.

I haven't read that before!

The world Mike and Rachel Grinti created was both comfortingly familiar and totally unique. It's set in our world in modern times, but in their version faeries, hags, talking magical cats, harpies, and other magical creatures exist openly and mingle with humans.

While all of these creatures were familiar, they were all given a new spin that made them feel fresh and different. I had just as much fun meeting all the creatures as I did following along as Emma tried to find her sister. I guessed early on what had happened to her sister (probably because of a particular prejudice I have about a certain VERY BAD type of creature), but the journey was filled with so many surprises (the rats!) and cleverness (everything cat magic-related, eye-puppets) that it didn't even matter.

Plus, there was Emma and Jack, and those two alone could carry the book for me. The harpy was another completely amusing and totally unexpected addition to Emma's questing party. Ooh, and the Borg-like rats! They were SO surprising and cool. I also have to mention the other cats. Yes, there are more and they are all fantastic. The first thing they do whenever they get a drop of magic is turn themselves into giant wild cats. Hilarious!

Bottom line

I had high hopes for Claws and it met every single one of them (except, a tiny bit of romance would have been nice, though I guess Emma is a little young for that...*grumble*).  

Claws is a middle grade book, and while it has the sweetness and age-appropriateness that makes it a perfect middle grade read, it is inventive enough to hold the attention of older readers as well. The plot moves along briskly but not overly fast and the characters are well-developed and not too "young" for older readers. Emma is, obviously, a girl, but I think middle grade boys might enjoy her adventure too (though probably not so much YA boys). Vivian Vande Velde fans should most definitely take note.

I am so getting a copy for myself because I can see myself rereading Claws when I'm looking for a nice comfort read. I'm also ordering a copy for the library and pushing it on all my middle grade and YA readers who like books with magic, adventure, and friendship. I'm also totally keeping an eye out for what these authors write next!

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Claws that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!

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  1. Small, what a great review! You hit on all the key points with perfect explanations. I love your quote. Nice pick for the review! I'm glad you enjoyed it as much as I did. It was fun doing our mini read-a-long.

  2. This sounds so great! Yeah, I've never met a talking kitty that was sweet. Hmmmm.

    1. hehe nope, they're pretty much snarky. Though one of the talking cats in this book is sweet :)

  3. When I saw talking cat the first thing I think about is Hocus Pocus (even though I know it`s a human in a cat`s body). This sounds adorable, I love the idea of cat magic, but I think I`m most interested in the idea that there isn`t really a love story to it... you just don`t find that anymore. Great review!

    1. I always think of Hocus Pocus when I think of talking cats! He was an awesome talking cat. :D I hope you enjoy Claws!

  4. MG read with great worldbuilding + cool MC + talking animals (which I need to find more of in books) = winner for me ... and most likely my younger brother and cousin :)

    1. I can most definitely see you liking this! I hope you and your brother and cousin get to read it soon and like it as much as I did :) I'm curious to hear about a boy's take on it.

    2. I'm a guy and loved it. I don't know what it has to do with it though

  5. What would the theme of Claws be?

  6. I loved the book! I've searched for it for years and finally found and reread it again. The ending of the book has so much promise for a second, maybe even a third book. I really hope they add onto it!


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