Duncan lives with his mother in a small village where she works giving people piano lessons. His mother has a lot of strange rules for him to follow such as to ALWAYS wear his cap, and NEVER do anything to stand out. So, when he scores a perfect score on the school test, she asks if he can retake it to make sure he misses some questions. Duncan doesn't understand why his mother won't let him be the best at anything, and he knows she wouldn't like it if she knew he could talk to cats--a very rare talent indeed.
One day, Duncan goes down to the docks to try to earn a little money and gets a chance to meet the Nation's Hero, an earl who offers him a job as a ship boy, Duncan is very tempted to take it. However, when he declines, he discovers that saying no was not really an option, and he is kidnapped and whisked away on an adventure that will require all of his wits!
The Sign of the Cat by Lynne Jonell (Lexile: 770; Interest level: Grades 3-6) will take you on an unforgettable adventure full of danger, loyalty, treachery, sword fights, a missing princess, cats, and many things that are not what they appear. (368 p.)
One of the reasons I became an elementary school librarian is so I can read children's books.