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Cover illustration from The Cinder-eyed Cats. Copyright Eric Rohmann

The Cinder-eyed Cats
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 1997
ISBN: 978-0-51770-896-5, hardcover
Dragonfly Books, 2001
ISBN: 978-0-44041-743-9, paperback

The Cinder-eyed Cats

by Eric Rohmann

A little boy’s journey to a tropical dream world. Magnificent oil paintings and rhyming text bring to life a mysterious island where cinder-eyed cats move like shadows, boats float above the ocean, whales fly across the dawn sky, and a parade of fish dances in the light of a campfire.

Illustration from The Cinder-eyed Cats. Copyright Eric Rohmann

From Eric: 

“A child goes on an adventure. That ‘s how the idea for this book began. From there I asked questions: Is the kid a boy or girl? Where does this adventure take place? How does he get there? What does he meet when he arrives? The image of a tropical place inhabited by big cats emerged from a series of sketches. After I made the drawings I realized that that island was a place I’d like to go. I wanted to awaken on a warm beach surrounded by huge, benevolent, fire-eyed, cats. This book truly sprang from my childhood wishes:  the desire to escape the suburbs and travel to some fantastic place. So I wrote a book.
Reviews Illustration from The Cinder-eyed Cats. Copyright Eric RohmannIllustration from The Cinder-eyed Cats. Copyright Eric Rohmann

Booklist, Starred
A beautiful book that readers will turn to again and again.

Publishers Weekly
Rohmann’s bright-eyed cats are as mesmerizing as a vivid dream.

Los Angeles Times
Rohmann’s magnificent oil paintings masterfully mix reality and fantasy.

School Library Journal
Five tigers with staring eyes fill the book jacket, front and back, suggesting a larger-than-life story. It’s a nighttime fantasy featuring a boy who climbs aboard a boat hanging in the air above a pier and sails off to faraway lands. After a wordless sequence of several pages, the text begins in blank verse and moves into rhymed couplets to recount in spare lines the child’s encounter with the cinder-eyed cats and a host of fish and sea creatures that “rise up from the deep” and join a frenzied night of dancing in the air above the sand. Double-page paintings of the tropical island terrain deepen as the sunny afternoon sky and sea move through twilight and into the dark of night. The scheme of sailing off into the night and a dreamlike encounter with wild animals are certainly nothing new, but the energy and surrealism provide a well-paced adventure with intriguing moments. The boy builds a large sand fish on the beach; as he dozes against its side, its eye begins to open. The celebration of night is a cheerful melee containing visual images—a circle of dancing tigers and the tigers mounted on one another's backs—familiar from well-known stories. As the morning sun calls the fish back to the sea, it’s all a bit of a well-woven pastiche, sometimes Disneyish in the drawing but often bold and rich. A bedtime piece with flair.
— Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston

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