Cats on Track: 04/26/17
Cats on Track by Lisa Martin and Valerie Martin is the second of the Anton and Cecil books. In the previous book, the feline siblings were separated at sea, now that they are reunited, they are on a cross-country quest to save their mouse friend Hieronymus.
As the cover shows, the cats travel by train. They also have misadventures with a mountain lion, a buffalo, and other residents of the great plains and South West.
Like the first book, Cats on Track suffers from pacing issues. There's an established magical realism in this world of the cats but it's never fully realized. Much of the fantasy element is dressed up with the renaming of everyday things — but what those names are varies from animal species to animal species. I think the goal is to give each species it's own culture but here it just creates speed bumps for the plot.
Take for instance the freight train on the cover. The first act of the book is primarily wasted on the cats trying to figure out what a land barge is. Like characters in a picture book, the cats to from animal to animal asking what a land barge is and eventually, thankfully, they find someone who knows what the mice mean.
Mind you, except for common place, plot useful things being obscured by colorful names, all the animal species appear to speak the same dialect of English. I would prefer if the cat brothers had managed to learn a variety of different animal languages on their time at sea, rather than this unexplained oddity where no one can be bothered to call a train a train or even a locomotive.
The other odd bit of this quest is that their destination is given only as a place between a coyote and a whale and the vague direction of take the "land barge" out of town — meaning take the train heading west. Granted, there are only so many train routes across the country, but still, that set of instructions is as vague as a needle in a hay stack.
If the mouse network is as well established and reliable as the mice claim it is, why can't they give more useful information? Why not give a few more landmarks for the cats?