Jon Evans (author), Jim Westergard (illustrator); BEASTS OF NEW YORK; The Porcupine's Quill (Children's: Young Adult Fiction) $29.95 ISBN: 9780889843417
Byline: Julie Eakin
With Beasts of New York, the world's most immortalized city acquires yet another fascinating identity. On the surface of this adventure story is a landscape populated by wild animals -- largely squirrels, rats, cats, and birds, from whose perspectives Manhattan's buildings are mountains, its rivers distant seas, and its automobiles terrifying death machines. Below, however, lies the far more sinister Kingdom Beneath (aka the subway system), with its endless pipes, foul odors, and labyrinth of tunnels, an unknowable realm in which our narrator loses -- and then ultimately comes to find -- himself.
Patch is a squirrel living in the Center Kingdom (Central Park). His daily routine of navigating the sky roads (trees) in search of food and creating society with his fellow creatures seems familiar enough, but what's peculiar is Patch's ability to speak Bird, a skill that will ultimately render him a hero when his beloved surroundings are suddenly converted to a war zone by the fearful and greedy.
The book's tone shifts from humorous to horrifying and back throughout. Patch's temporary exile to Staten Island while clutched in the talons of a hawk is amusing, as is the uptown attitude of his new companion by default, the "Queen of all Cats," who lived on The Great Avenue (Park Avenue) dining on caviar and sushi before being abandoned to the most maligned borough. Frequent battle scenes (including arranged dog...