Shadow Walkers – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Shadow WalkerShadow Walkers, by Russ Chenoweth.
NYC, Charles Scribner’s Sons, April 1993, hardcover $13.95 (153 pages).

Shadow Walkers is one of those unillustrated novels that make it very difficult for the reader to decide whether the talking animals are supposed to be natural, unclothed quadrupedal animals or bipedal, clothes-wearing funny animals. Set on Cape Cod during winter, and featuring two rat children, Sara and her brother Peter, the different scenes imply both situations. Cover artist Gregory Manchess has prudently avoided depicting any of the characters.

“Rats are good climbers, but rats are good at many things that they are ordinarily too sensible to do. If Sara had told her parents what she planned, they would have asked her not to do it because it was dangerous and unnecessary. So she hadn’t told them, and that troubled her. […]

The trunk rose above her like a wall for thirty feet before the first great limb jutted out, as large itself as a good-sized tree. […] Sara climbed, carefully and surely, stopping every few feet to listen. She was exposed here and nearly defenseless, but still nothing moved in the woods. She felt safer when she had reached the limb and could stretch out for a moment on the rough bark and look and listen. […]

Two feet below the highest leaf, she had to stop. The branch had shrunk to less than half an inch and bowed slightly with her weight. It was high enough. […]

She never knew what made her glance down in time to see the shadow glide among the dim trunks with the silence of a moth and settle on a limb below her. It was an owl, a very big one, and he had decided for some idiotic reason to change his daytime perch and come to join her in her tree. […]

He couldn’t see her against the light – he or she. It didn’t matter – she’d get no concession either way. Owls had little sense of smell, but they could hear a seed drop on the forest floor. She’d better not shake off any acorns. He would hear her move or cough. […] He might wait all day, knowing she was there, and then in darkness come and pick her off the branch like a ripened peach.” (pgs. 2 and 4)

That certainly sounds like a natural rat and owl in a tree. But then:

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