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GOOD READING, October 2005

Sassycat: The Night of the Dead

Richard Harland

Sassycat is conceited and smart. She believes she’s Top Cat and her attitude trumpets this belief. She also adores her mistress and friend, Rebecca Naylor.
Mrs Naylor is still grieving for her husband. Finances force her to move her family from the inner to the outer suburbs, into the house her husband inherited from his parents. Buried in the cemetery is proof of the family’s line. It is there that Rebecca sees her namesake’s grave and by it, an old woman dressed in old-fashioned clothing.
There are mysterious undercurrents and inexplicable happenings in the house that only Rebecca can sense. And there are the nightmares.
This is not your odinary story of the dead. Here, the animals have a voice and there is a role reversal with humans. When danger threatens, Sassycat rallies the neighbourhood animals, and plans a strategic attack on the otherworld monsters that haunt and hunt her beloved Rebecca.
Here is a riveting, humorous and entertaining read. The animals are the stars throughout—a perfect choice of main characters. The storyline is fantastic and both the dialogue and language are impressive. Make time to finish it in one sitting, for you won’t be able to put it down.

***** five stars

Sassycat: The Night of the Dead
Richard Harland.  Omnibus
1 86291 670 5   $14.95  Pb

Sassycat is a strokable tabby and protector of all human beings, whose skill as a protector is put to the test when a strange black force creeps from the cemetery and into her family’s home every night. With the help of a menagerie of local animals—including dogs, rats, possums, lizards and even a cockatoo—Sassy must solve the mystery and ensure the safety of her human friends. Harland tells the story in short accessible chapters that alternate between Sassycat’s voice and third person narrative. He has given Sassycat a very real and entertaining personality, bringing her and the other animals to life masterfully. Each animal its own distinct personality, often more completely explored than that of the human characters.

In the midst of the mystery, Rebecca is also coming to terms with the death of her father. Her brother is absorbed in his girlfriend and her mother is working to support the family; Rebecca must cope with her nightmares and the unexplained black force with only Sassycat as an ally …

Sassycat is a page-turning read—full of mystery, suspense and, of course, those fascinating characters. It is sure to find an audience with upper primary fans of Goosebumps-type horror and animal storries. Recommended for both school and public libraries.
(Tina Cavanough)


READING TIME, Vol 50, No 2
Harland, Richard Sassycat: The Night of the Dead
.  Omnibus 2006 139pp $14.95  Pbk
ISBN 1862916705   SCIS 1235702

An entertaining and scary ghost story, mostly told in the voice of Sassycat (chapters indicated with pawprints) and with some told from the viewpoint of her human, Rebecca. After the Naylor family father dies, Rebecca, her mother and siblings move back to Dad’s old country cottage across the stream from the cemetery. Sassycat is at first disdainful of the strange behaviour of the local animals—two dogs, a lizard, a cockatoo, a possum and four crazy rats. However she begins to sense that there is danger threatening her family—a danger too big for one sassy cat to deal with. How the animals combine their assorted talents to defeat the creeping menace and help protect Rebecca from the real horrors of her nightmares makes for a delightfully thrilling read. The original plot combines humour. animal antics, a very vain cat and some very scary apparitions. Recommended for upper primary/middle school readers.



The story was entirely delightful, and one of the best things about it (I'll bet everyone who reads it says the same) is the perfect depiction of cat personality.  Sassycat IS a true cat, egotistical and irresistible as real cats are.  She's a wonderful creation.  I also loved several of the other characters, particularly the rats.  Don't know whether THEY expressed true rat nature or not, but their cock-eyed optimism, their lunatic hopes of achieving cuddly pethood in the face of all natural disadvantages, was tremendous.  (i.e., regarding teeth:  "Yellow is cute and colourful...VERY cute."  "Scars are cute too..."  Great stuff.)  The mixture of strong characterization, suspense, action, and offbeat humor creates a really first-rate story--and of course, your imagery--the wild, bizarre, uncanny, wholly distinctive word pictures that you paint--well, nobody does it like you.  You are a remarkable and wonderful writer--one of the very best, in my opinion--and I think your work will be read and enjoyed by many for a very long time to come.



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