When Coretta Scott King Award winning-author Patricia McKissack passed away in 2017, she left behind a legacy of more than 100 children’s books. In the posthumously published Who Will Bell the Cat?, McKissack revisits a thought-provoking fable. When Marmalade—a cold, sick and hungry tabby cat—seeks shelter in a barn one winter evening, the resident mice take pity on her and nurse the cat back to health. Despite the care she received, Marmalade begins to terrorize the mice as soon as she’s feeling better.
Scared but not deterred, the mice convene, and Smart Mouse offers a solution: Put a collar with a bell around Marmalade’s neck, and the sound will warn them of her approach. But who will bell the cat? Many mice try and fail—Wee Mouse, Tiny Mouse and Teeny Mouse narrowly escape—and even the nearby Rat Pack is no help. While the mice are devising their next plan, four humans move into the house next door. Realizing they don’t have to be friends with the humans in order to seek their help, the mice strategically drop the collar where a little girl can find it. Soon, she finally succeeds and fastens it around Marmalade’s neck.
Illustrator Christopher Cyr’s digital art plays with chiaroscuro to make this tale deliciously ominous. Marmalade’s luminous eyes shine menacingly in the barn’s shadowy corners, while diffused sunlight radiates around the scheming—and later victorious—mice. But what to do about those humans? McKissack lets the mice—and clever children—ponder this dilemma on their own.