Hi there... This is the first page of the Letter "C" in an alphabetical list of the children's books reviewed on ReadThatAgain.com... All these books are also listed by Author in another section of the site.

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Kids Books -- "C" By Title
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"A Cake For Herbie"
Written by Petra Mathers
Illustrated by Petra Mathers
(Atheneum Books, 2000)

The third book of the "Lottie" series, following Lottie's New Beach Towel and Lottie's New Friend. Encouraged by his nutty pal Lottie, a goofy duck named Herbie enters a poetry contest to try and win a cake. But his poem -- a pun-filled, letter-by-letter celebration of food (A is for artichoke, B is for belly...) is met with corn by the snobbish local literati. Dorky and dejected, Herbie leaves the contest and finds a more sympathetic audience among some beatnik pastry chefs... So you can see how this might end well. I wasn't totally wowed by this one, although I suppose it is a fairly gentle treatment of issues surrounding social anxieties in school, etc. The narrative is pretty clunky, though. I'm really not a fan of this series. (C)


"Calendar"
Written by Myra Cohn Livingston
Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
(Holiday House, 2007)

A very pretty book with very few words. Ms. Livingston's poem in praise of the passing of the months was written in 1959 and clocks in at a mere fifty-five words; Will Hillenbrand's new, modern artwork makes the most of this sparseness, and each month gets a gorgeous, two-page spread (except December, which gets seven pages, so that Santa can slide down the chimney at the end...) The timing is a little off: the text flits by instantaneously, while the artwork really demands you drink it in, so you may find yourself extemporizing to come up with a reason to linger on the images. That's okay, though -- I think this one can stand up to repeat readings. Certainly a nice way to teach about the months and the passing of of the year. (B)


"Callie Cat, Ice Skater"
Written by Eileen Spinelli
Illustrated by Anne Kennedy
(Albert Whitman & Co., 2007)

Do what you love - because you love it! A nice story with a nice message, about a young girl (an anthropomorphized cat) who loves ice skating, gracefully gliding on the frozen pond near home anytime she can. When a skating contest is announced, her schoolfriends urge Callie to enter, and convince her that she just has to win. Although she becomes nervous, after Callie sees several other contestants fail, she starts to believe that, hey, maybe she will win! And yet, first place goes to another girl, and Callie is crushed. On the way home, her parents are appropriately supportive, telling her that what matters is that she tried her best, although her friends emphasize how disappointed she must feel. Callie keeps quiet, though, and the next day, she puts her skates back on, and goes back out on the ice, once again skating just for fun. This book deals with several important issues in a nice, gentle way -- peer pressure, learning to be resilient and deal with failure, and also learning to appreciate and enjoy things just for what they are, not for what they can get you. A nice parable for parents and kids dealing with competitive sports and other intense, passionate interests. Recommended! (B+)


"Can't You Sleep, Little Bear?"
Written by Martin Waddell
Illustrated by Barbara Firth
(Candlewick, 1988)

I love Martin Waddell's "Little Bear" books, but was less than thrilled by this book. Apparently, this was the first volume of the series, introducing us to the whimsically named "Big Bear" and "Little Bear," who live in a snug little cave off in the woods, a cavern filled with comfy chairs, a warm fireplace, and lots of love. What I didn't like about this book was the message, a prolonged exploration of scared-of-the-dark sleep anxieties -- I bought this book sight unseen, based on my delight with the other, later volumes, and was bummed to discover that it was an "issue book," dwelling on problems that we (thankfully) haven't come across yet in our family (and don't want to encourage). Also, the writing is a bit thick and clunky, a repetitive diatribe that sacrifices dramatic grace in favor of getting The Point across. I suppose it's possible we'll need this book later, if our kid does get scared of the dark, but for now it's hidden up on a high shelf, way out of sight.
(B)


"Captain's Purr"
Written by Madeleine Floyd
Illustrated by Madeleine Floyd
(Harcourt, 2003)

A delightful tall tale about an entirely average cat. Captain is a portly black-and-white piebald (based on the author's own cat, named Captain...) who likes to sleep more than anything else, an activity followed eating, washing and walking about. He also enjoys taking the rowboat out for moonlight sails to meet his girlfriend (a petit tabby cat on the other side of the Thames...) The fantastical element of the story is introduced in a delightfully matter-of-fact way, leaving it up to the reader to decide whether the adventures really happened or not. a great book for cat lovers, full of well-observed illustrations, and a languid, loping pace appropriate to the subject. Recommended! (B+)


"Caramba"
Written by Marie-Louise Gay
Illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay
(Groundwood/House Of Anansi Press, 2005)

A charming story of a young cat who feels embarassed because he can't fly... See, in his world, all the cats can fly, including his cousins, Bijou and Bug, who make fun of him when they find out that Caramba remains flightless. His best friend, Portia the pig, sticks by him, though, and in the end, we discover Caramba's hidden talents. A good look at the negative power of insecurity and self-consciousness, and its literary corrolary, the value of individuality and self-affirmation. Love the artwork (by Ms. Gay, whose stylish "Stella" series is reviewed above) and the story as well. Definitely worth checking out. (B+)


"Car Wash"
Written by Sandra Steen
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
(G. P. Putnam, 2001)

A giddy celebration of the joys of going through a carwash, as seen through the eyes a pair of small children. The artwork -- a combination of pastel, crayon and collage -- is delightful, although the text is a little spotty. This is one of those books where adult readers have to do a lot of extra work, interpreting what the author is trying to say, and match it up with the images. Part of it is that in addition to doing swooshy, swooshy drip-drip-splash sound effects, Steen also throws in a big metaphor -- the kids imagine that their car is a submarine and that the car wash is an undersea adventure. Scrubbing mops become octopi, the wind jets are a hurricane, etc. It's kinda cool, but it doesn't make sense right away, and littler readers might quickly get lost. It's pretty to look at, though: the images really pop out at you! (B-)


"Cat And Mouse"
Written by Tomek Bogacki
Illustrated by Tomek Bogacki
(Frances Foster/Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999)

Opposites attract as a little girl mouse and the little boy cat wander away from their lessons and discover that they can have fun playing with someone who is different from them. They come back home and tell their brothers and sisters, and the next day all the children meet in the meadow and play all day. A subtle (though also rather obvious) celebration of diversity and cross-cultural curiousity... Polish author Tomek Bogacki makes his point without beating us over the head with it... The story moves along at a fast clip (takes only a minute or so to read it) and is accompanied by large, compelling artwork. Recommended... Probably the best of the Cat & Mouse books... (though if you like this one, you'll like the others, too.)
(B)


"Cat And Mouse In The Rain"
Written by Tomek Bogacki
Illustrated by Tomek Bogacki
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1997)

There's a whiff of Eastern European absurdism at play in this series, written by Polish illustrator Tomek Bogacki... A cat befriends a mouse and they play together every day... In this book, a frog helps them learn to enjoy themselves even when it rains. Then, they in turn teach their scoffing, skeptical families to play in the rain as well. Sort of a if-life-gives-you-lemons parable, with a morose modern European twist. It's nice, with striking artwork. Worth checking out.
(B)


"Cat And Mouse In The Snow"
Written by Tomek Bogacki
Illustrated by Tomek Bogacki
(Frances Foster/Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999)

Another episode in which Polish author Tomek Bogacki upends negative expectations, and celebrates the fun you can have during "bad" weather... The little girl mouse and the little boy cat wake up one morning to find their favorite green meadow is no longer green! Just what is this "snow" stuff, anyway? As always, their skeptical older siblings follow them and find that Cat & Mouse are on to something surprising and unexpectedly fun. Another offbeat offering with a distinctly Eastern European slant... Worth checking out!
(B)


"Cat And Mouse In The Night"
Written by Tomek Bogacki
Illustrated by Tomek Bogacki
(Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1998)

Another odd, off-kilter adventure featuring the iconoclastic best-friends Cat and Mouse of the title. Having taught their siblings to live in peace, our two heros still march to the beat of a different drum, and when all the kids go back inside at the end of the day, Cat and Mouse stay outside to play a little bit longer. When night falls and they find themselves lost in the woods, they get a little panicky, but a kindly owl comes by and teaches them how to appreciate the wonders of the forest at night. This is the third book in the series, and there's not much surprise left to the formula, but it will still strike a chord with parents who are on Bogacki's wavelength. If you liked the other books, this is definitely worth checking out. (B)


"The Cat Barked?"
Written by Lydia Monks
Illustrated by Lydia Monks
(Dial Books, 1998)

A funny, whimsical British import wherein an orange, stripey kitty-kat complains to its girl that it would rather be a dog than a cat, since dogs get all the glamour, praise and good PR. The girl convinces the "silly old cat" that being feline isn't so bad after all (you get to nap all day long and don't have to fetch sticks...) and all is right in the universe again. What's great about this book -- apart from the playful premise and well-written rhymes -- is the groovy, collage-style artwork, which is packed with loopy, humorous, richly textured details... Lots to laugh about here, and plenty of details to point out and talk about to little ones as well. Recommended! This one's a favorite around here...
(A)


"Cat Goes Fiddle-I-Fee"
Adapted by Paul Galdone
Illustrated by Paul Galdone
(Guild Books, 1985)

A nice retelling of this old English nursery rhyme... There are several versions of this song you can find; this is one of the nicer ones. Clean, simple artwork with some interesting details you can comment on (like what kind of food each animal gets, etc...) Not stunning, but a nice read. Kind of old-fashioned, 1970s-ish artwork.
(B)


"The Cat In The Hat Beginner Book Dictionary -- In Spanish"
Written by P.D. Eastman
Illustrated by P.D. Eastman
(Random House/Beginner Books, 1966)

A nice entry-level reference book... I've never been that into the English-only version, but this bilingual edition is much more engaging. The pictures are cheerful and illustrative (you gotta love Eastman's artwork!) and there are gazillions of entries, with lots of fun stuff to look at... A few small quibbles: the Cat In The Hat branding is a little duplicitous, since the Cat doesn't appear anywhere inside the book, other than on the front cover. Also, the Spanish content is given secondary status to the English entries -- the book's graphic layout remains the same, so it is still organized by the English-language words (All, Ant, Apple, Attic, etc.) instead of the Spanish, which is fine if you are approaching it as an English speaker, but it doesn't work well for a language immersion approach (you can't learn a bunch of Spanish-language "A" words all at the same time, for example.) More significantly, the singular forms of each word are not always given -- Spanish words are introduced within the context of sample sentences, so nouns are often pluralized, and verbs are often conjugated (although only in one form), so you need to have considerable previous background with the language to really explain the translations. All in all, though, this is a very good resource, which introduces over 1300 words en espanol and also provides a pronunciation guide at the end, just in case. A fine tool, especially when used in conjunction with other language resources. (Also see: my modest bilingual book list) (B+)


"Cat Up A Tree"
Written by Jon & Ann Hassert
Illustrated by Jon & Ann Hassert
(Houghton Mifflin, 1998)

A goofy lark about an old lady who sees some cats stuck up in a tree -- first one, then five, then ten... -- and she asks the police, then the fire department, then city hall and even the post office to help get them down. No one can help, so she takes matters in her own hands and winds up with forty new pets in her tiny little house. The story and artwork are quite fanciful... This doesn't necessarily stick to your ribs, but it's a nice read... Some of the humor might be best suited for slightly older kids (in the 6-8 year old range perhaps...?) but it's still a cute book. (B)






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