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Reviewed by Trillion Lau
Opening sentence
A different sort of fantasy adventure, reviewed by Trillion Lau
November 9, 2022

Journey Through the Cat Door is a fantasy novel by Belinda O’Keefe. Unusually, the protagonist is a regular old house cat, until the day his owners install a cat door for him, which is a portal to different parts of the world. We follow him on his adventures as he explores a variety of new lands.

The story follows Enzo from a first-person point of view. He is super chill like a cat, for example when he encounters difficult situations, encountering treacherous rivers, vast deserts, or jungles with dangers creatures; he never starts freaking out. Instead, he is always calm and tries to think ahead in case an opportunity for escape comes his way.

The most dangerous adventure of all is when Enzo finds himself in the kitchen of a chef who turns endangered animals into food for her restaurant. But do I relate to him? I mean, I am not a cat, but I did identify with his calm nature, and I think many other readers would too. My favourite part of his personality is his amusing judgements of others: “By his side was the ugliest cat on the earth… He didn't seem to be embarrassed about his appearance in the slightest, despite his patchy, almost non-existent fur.” I don’t think I have ever seen a book with a character so overtly prejudiced against baldness.

The structure of the story is split into three distinctive parts, beginning with sending Enzo on adventures to test his survival skills. The cat door leads him down an unexpected path preparing him for a dramatic and character-building plot twist. The story ends with an action-packed and satisfying resolution, with Enzo back home and with his family none the wiser to his marvelous adventures. This writing style really threw me through a loop: after reading the synopsis, I was expecting a story similar to Alice in Wonderland, instead, I got something totally different and it was shocking, but in a good way.

Enzo takes you on a journey. He describes his observations, and he is not overly emotional. I think readers of all ages could enjoy this book, while clearly being written for children. It is not very serious, and the pacing is quite slow; it could be a great bedtime story. I particularly enjoyed Enzo’s point of view, for a common house cat knows little of things like camels or sloths, so his descriptions are very entertaining. One of my favourites was: “It has the longest legs I'd ever seen… It had a big-lipped snout, a large hump on its back and long, thick eyelashes shading its eyes” — often, he needs somebody else to tell him what things are. We as readers know exactly what it is that he is describing, which is part of the fun.

Evidently, the cat door, which opens into other countries, seems like a fantasy plot device. The phenomenon of the cat door is never really explained, and as someone who likes answers, I found this difficult to be at peace with. But the mystery is probably part of this book’s charm. Enzo asks where the cat door is a few times and each time it's in a different place. It appears in strange locations somehow only for the cats, and not in the eyeshot of the evil chef.

I think O’Keefe wanted her readers to be aware of threats to endangered animals through her evil chef. I liked that this was exposed in a fantastical way, rather than raising awareness overtly. She owns a clever cat called Enzo, who undoubtedly inspired the story, and I think cat lovers would appreciate the intriguing perspective that she conveys.

Overall this book had a good balance of action and comedy. I would recommend it to anyone who likes cats or would like to see a cat protagonist. This was the first novel I read that had this point of view so I appreciated its originality, as these types of perspectives are uncommon.

- Trillion lives in Auckland.
Author & Illustrator: Belinda O'Keefe
Publisher: Bateman Books