Josiah's Reviews > The Valentine Cat

The Valentine Cat by Clyde Robert Bulla
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Feb 16, 12

Read from February 13 to 14, 2012

Clyde Robert Bulla has created some of the loveliest, most charming stories I've ever read. His career in writing produced dozens of good books with surprising staying power, still in publication long after their debut, as well as many that went out of print much sooner, to our loss. In The Valentine Cat, Clyde Robert Bulla joins forces with famed illustrator Leonard Weisgard to turn out a very nice book that I hope continues to find a home in the hearts of new readers for many years to come. It is a gentle, timeless story that has so much more to offer than one might expect from such a slim volume.

When a black kitten with a heart-shaped white mark on its forehead and blazing blue eyes is born in a woodcutter's barn, the tiny animal soon finds himself out on the street looking for a new home, much to the chagrin of the woodcutter's kindhearted daughter. The kitten eventually stumbles upon a poor shoemaker named Tell who is on his way home from work, and Tell adopts the cat into his home without a second thought. At heart, Tell is an artist, but the period of his life that he spent trying to sell his artwork to prospective buyers turned out to be fruitless; they just weren't buying what he had to offer, and so he wearily consented to relinquish his vision of being an artist and open up shop as a shoemaker in order to make ends meet. Nevertheless, his dreams lie not dead but dormant, and on a sudden whim one day he paints a picture of the kitten on the wall of his house. The sight of his artistic talents in use again stirs the old longing inside of Tell; he realizes that he's fully capable of making a better drawing of his kitten than this first hesitant attempt, and now that he knows that he still has all of his old ability, he wants to see exactly how how much better he can do. With his faithful kitten companion by his side, Tell paints pictures of his pet all over the walls of the house, and the beauty of his unique finished creation is evident. There's something more to making art than just earning a living, something about it that is eminently worthwhile even if not a head turns in notice. "I had forgotten how good it is to paint," Tell says. "If I can't be an artist to please the world, I'll be an artist to please myself." And that is what he does.

As so often happens when one has found a source of inspiration, though, the selfish schemes of one who covets the artist's kitten work to steal away the innocent animal, and Tell is left on his own again without a means by which to reclaim his artistic renaissance. But in classic Clyde Robert Bulla style, all comes together in a fitting conclusion to demonstrate the lasting influence that even a tiny kitten can have on so many, and the sweetness that a true happy ending can deliver when dreams deferred are finally brought to reality. Even if that reality is different from the one that we had originally imagined.

At first glance, the illustrating work of Leonard Weisgard in The Valentine Cat may appear fairly rudimentary, but a closer look reveals the rich depth and dimension that he has captured in the book's artwork. One could hardly ask for a more appealing author/illustrator duo than Clyde Robert Bulla and Leonard Weisgard, and The Valentine Cat is a good example of the magic that they are capable of producing together. I would give it two and a half stars, and that rating balances right on the brink of going up instead of down. The Valentine Cat is undoubtedly a book to treasure.
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