Part of a series of reviews of works produced by TRU-housed publisher CiCAC Press
Ashley Wadhwani, Contributor Ω
Karen Hofmann’s children’s book Sister Cat is a post-modern take on the traditional folk tale, but includes outdated messages that readers might want to think twice about before reading to a child.
Rowan, a young girl, loses her family and must go on a mythical journey to find them. Sister Cat, Rowan’s guide-meets-genie, helps Rowan get through difficult decisions.
Her encounters with a grumpy, lonely troll, old-lady giant and a mother witch with three witch daughters are typical situations one would encounter in a myth-based children’s book.
But Hofmann includes a concerning infusion of the patriarchy when it comes to love.
Like many other fairy tales, Sister Cat includes a love story, and thus emerges the “beggar-prince,” whom Rowan does not decide to follow when a more stable man comes along. Instead of following her heart, so to speak, she follows the knight, and where Hofmann could choose a storyline of female empowerment, she doesn’t. Why can’t Rowan follow neither man and continue on her journey all by herself? She gets distracted from her journey because she decides to grow a “crop” of children, and lives with the knight. Eventually, Rowan remembers her family she forgot she was looking for, and finds them with a not-very-surprising surprise ending.
To fortify the unnecessary inclusion of a dramatic lost love, the last page includes the following sentence: “And she never again saw the beggar-prince, though he visited her, even in her old age, in dreams that left her restless and longing.”
On top of being predictable, a life-long regret of losing a potential boyfriend does not come to mind when one thinks of a happy-ending.
Unfortunately, it is often difficult to follow the narration due to lengthy sentences. Even read aloud, the sentences have “and’s” where periods may be more appropriate.
Overall, this book is perhaps not what one might look for in a modern fairy tale that could be shared between those in a young family. Instead, Hofmann uses the genre to tell the classic damsel in distress story that would make feminists shudder upon reading.