Kid's Stuff -- Books About Kittens & Cats
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"Kate, The Cat And The Moon"
Written by David Almond
Illustrated by Stephen Lambert
(Random House/Doubleday, 2004)

A captivating, but disorientingly fantastical book about a little girl who hears a cat calling outside her window one night, then magically transforms into a cat herself, to join it in a moonlight romp. The story is beautiful, but it might be a little weird for very young readers to take in... And for parents who believe that fairy tales and stories with talking animals in them are the work of the Devil, well... you might want to skip this one. Families that embrace magic and magical thinking will dig it, though... (B)


"Stella's Dancing Days"
Written by Sandy Asher
Illustrated by Kathryn Brown
(Harcourt, 2001)

A lovely cat's-eye view of the world. When Stella was a little kitten and was rescued by two children ("The Tall One" and "The Gentle One") she was rambunctious and full of bounce. As she got older, though, she liked to "dance" less and less, and eventually, when she was a full-grown cat, she liked to lie around and be mellow. She also got the urge to go on nightly prowls, and after she met another big cat -- a male -- she started looking for a place to hide and make a nest. Thus, Stella became a mother. Her kittens, though, were also dancers, and once again the children had bouncy little kitties to play with and make fly. A sweet, innocent story (although perceptive children may probe a bit about how Stella's meeting the boy cat and the subsequent pregnancy are related...) Includes some basic ballet terms, like plie and jete, for kids who are on a dancing kick. (A)


"The Fire Cat"
Written by Esther Averill
Illustrated by Esther Averill
(Harper Collins, 1960)

The "origin story" of Pickles, the fire cat. Written over a decade after Pickles originally appeared in the oddball 1940s "Jenny Linsky" series, this shows how Pickles was originally a feral cat, living in a vacant lot, who chased smaller cats because he had nothing better to do... Pickles is befriended by Mrs. Goodkind, who tries to tame him, but is unsuccessful, with Pickles running out of her apartment, back into the wild. Later, though, a fireman comes to rescue Pickles from the top of a tree, and the firehouse adopts him as a mascot. Pickles, who had always dreamt of "doing big things," works hard to help out, and is made an official "fire cat," even learning to climb a ladder and help other cats when they get stuck in trees. This is one of the clearest-written, least odd of the Jenny Linksy books, also intriguing for its clear advocacy of a liberal view of poverty, crime and criminal rehabilitation: given a good home and honest work to do, Pickles becomes a model citizen... (Though, apparently, there was some recidivism at play, too, since he was a bully again by the time Jenny meets him in School For Cats...) Anyway, this is an enjoyable book, with a lower word count and better artwork than the earlier Averill offerings.
(B-)


"Minou"
Written by Mindy Bingham
Illustrated by Itoko Maeno
(Advocacy Press, 1987)

A purposefully upsetting narrative, with wonderful artwork. Minou is a sweet, delicate Siamese cat living in Paris under the care of a kind old lady. Things are great until (Bambi moment!) the old lady falls ill and is taken off to the hospital, where she dies. The orphaned cat is completely neglected by the movers who come to haul the woman's possessions away, and thus Minou escapes onto the streets, where she finds herself unable to charm or flirt her way into a new household. Finally an older, more streetwise cat takes Minou under her wing and teaches her how to fend for herself, and then helps her get a "job" as a mouser in the Notre Dame cathedral. The book was commissioned by an offshoot of the Girl's Club of America, and its goal is to get young girls to realize the value of being self-sufficient and autonomous. The artwork is beautiful, although the death of the old lady and the hardships Minou suffers may be too upsetting for smaller children. Seen just in terms of the body of kids books that celebrate Paris, this is quite nice: the book is quite large and the airy watercolor cityscapes are evocative and inviting. (B-)


"Green Eyes"
Written by Abe Birnbaum
Illustrated by Abe Birnbaum
(Golden Books, 1953)

Beautifully drawn and expansively laid out (I recommend the "library" edition), this colorful story tells us about the first year of a young cat's life, exploring the world in the spring, lazing in the summer grass, frollicking as autumn leaves fall and snuggling up by the heater in the snowy season. The book deftly deals with many issues -- the passage of time, mastering the physical world, maturity, love of nature and appreciating the seasons as they pass -- all with a lightness of tone and cheerful embrace of life. The artwork is very clear and boldly drawn, the cat looks very friendly and the story is written in complete sentences and is very sweet. In short, this one's a real winner. It had to be read over and over for days, and made its way into the permanent collection. (A)


"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)


"Mrs. McTats And Her Houseful Of Cats"
Written by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Illustrated by Joan Rankin
(Margaret K. McElderry, 2001)

The author of the puppycentric "Biscuit" series shifts gears for a while with this cheerful tale of a kooky cat lady who starts out with one kitty and ends up with twenty five... Almost enough for each letter in the alphabet...! She just needs one more, so it's back to dogs again, when a puppy shows up as well! Nice book; okay rhymes and okay art with plenty of details to comment on, and an overall cheerful vibe. Worth checking out.
(B)


"Have You Seen My Cat?"
Written by Eric Carle
Illustrated by Eric Carle
(Simon & Schuster, 1987)

Pretty artwork, not much of a story. A child goes from person to person, asking if they've seen their cat, and gets steered towards lions, panthers, tigers, et.al. Finally, we find the tortoise shell tabby, with all of her kittens, and the child cries, "This is my cat!" Yippee. Maybe fun for the youngest readers, but I didn't find it very involving. (C)


"Kitten Red, Yellow, Blue"
Written by Peter Catalanotto
Illustrated by Peter Catalanotto
(Atheneum Books, 2005)

See, there's just no accounting for taste: I hated this book, but my wife and kid bonded over it for about two months. The plot is super-simple: a calico cat has a large flock of kittens, and the only way to tell them apart is by the color of the ribbons they use as collars. Each kitten goes to a different person, each with their own profession: a police officer, a fire fighter, etc., and there is some linkage between the hues and the jobs (the karate instructor's cat wears white, and so on...) But, man, what a dumb book! My kid liked it because there was a lot of opportunity for remembering details -- the cat names, the colors they wore, what they did -- and I suppose that is the point. It's also a number book, and (obviously) a color book. (One small complaint: they get onto some esoteric color choices, but the hues shown on the pages don't really match -- a pee-yellow "teal," for example. I mean, if you're going to do a book about colors, at least get your registration marks right!) (C+)



Lynley Dodd (and Slinky Malinky) -- see author profile


"The Happy Lion"
Written by Louise Fatio
Illustrated by Roger Duvoisin
(Alfred A. Knopf, 1954)

This classic oldie-but-goodie belongs in the same class as the Babar and Curious George books -- the ones about wild animals who are grateful to have been captured and brought to civilization. That overt message is fairly insidious, but to its credit, The Happy Lion starts from there, and then moves sideways into a sly critique of the human culture it professes to endorse. The lion in question lives in a town in France, where all the townspeople greet him with friendly "bonjours," at least up until the day when his cage gets left open, and Happy decides to take a little stroll around town. Everyone freaks out, except for the zookeeper's son, who persuades the gentle giant cat to go back to the zoo, and then all ends well. It's actually a pretty good story -- I like the art, and there's a nice, dry humor infused into the text. Haven't read any of the numerous sequels yet, but when I do, I'll give you a full report.
(B+)


"Mama Cat Has Three Kittens"
Written by Denise Fleming
Illustrated by Denise Fleming
(Henry Holt, 1998)

Probably for cat lovers only, but if you fit that description, you'll like this book... Hopefully your kids will as well! A mother cat takes her kittens outside to show them the ropes -- how to clean themselves, sharpen their claws, etc. Two of the kittens, a piebald named Fluffy and a calico called Skinny, follow the mama cat's every move, while an aloof tabby named Boris prefers to nap the day away. The paintings that accompany the simple text have an impressionistic ease to them, and definitely capture some of the loose laziness of our purring, padded pals... This book isn't going to change your life or anything, but it's a nice addition to any feline-friendly library. I like it. (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+)


"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)


"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+)


"Sleep Tight, Ginger Kitten"
Written by Adele Geras
Illustrated by Catherine Walters
(Penguin/Dutton, 2001)

A sweet story about a little orange tabby cat who prowls about the garden and house looking for a good place to take a nap. There's always something a little wrong with every place he tries -- door open on him, insects distract him, etc. finally he finds the perfect spot: a nice, warm lap. Warm, well-studied illustrations and a cute, but not-too-cloying narrative. Cat lovers will enjoy this book a lot. (B)


"Little Robin Redbreast"
Adapted by Shari Halpern
Illustrated by Shari Halpern
(North South, 1996)

A classic Mother Goose rhyme, beautifully rendered in colorful, vibrant collages by artist Shari Halpern... A calico cat with an impish grin is snoozing in a flower garden when a perky little robin wakes her up... and you know the rest! The classic text is brought to life with bright, playful images... This was the book that brought Haplern's work to my attention... A perfect book for infants and very young readers! (A)


"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)


"Three Little Kittens"
Written by Marilyn Janovitz
Illustrated by Marilyn Janovitz
(North South, 2002)

A nice adaptation of this kooky nursery rhyme; the artwork is cartoonish and functional, and Janovitz comes up with a nice workaround for the weird closing lines about smelling a rat nearby... Instead of being afraid of the rat (as in other versions) here the kittens playfully chase the rat (which looks like a cute little mousy), short-circuiting the mildly upsetting undertone of the original version. This is a good version of this rhyme, one of my girl's favorites. (B)


"Five Creatures"
Written by Emily Jenkins
Illustrated by Tomek Bogacki
(Frances Foster/Farrar Straus, 2001)

A wry, dry sense of humor may make this a book that "isn't for everyone," but if you're on the right wavelength, this can be quite rewarding. The five creatures in question are a mommy, daddy, little girl and their two cats. The members of the household share qualities or like things in different combinations, encouraging readers to categorize and differentiate, with the humor built in along the margins. The message may be a little advanced, and not as fun or overtly dramatic as most picturebooks, but for puzzlesolving, analytical children this could be a pretty fun book. The first page taught my girl the difference between humans and other animals, so that was alone makes it a winner, as far as I'm concerned.
(B)


"The Tiger Who Came To Tea"
Written by Judith Kerr
Illustrated by Judith Kerr
(Harper Collins, 1968)

An odd, absurd, and distinctly British story about a tiger who comes to tea and eats everything in the house... He even laps up all the water in the taps, so that no one can take a bath! That's all very well and fine as far as little Sophie is concerned; she and her mother play hosts to the giant, smiling tiger and buy a tin of tiger food, hoping for him to return. Although the artwork is a bit stiff, small children will love the sight of the giant tiger, voraciously eating everything in reach, while Sophie follows him around gazing adoringly, or reaching out to pat his tail. The storytelling and art may be a little dated, but this book still has some magic.
(B)


"Me And My Cat?"
Written by Satoshi Kitamura
Illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura
(Farrar Straus Giroux, 2005)

The victim of a misdirected magical curse, a young boy switches bodies with his pet cat, and finds out that being a kitty kitty kitty ain't all it's cracked up to be. By the time the spell is lifted, he's definitely ready to return to normal, as is his poor cat, who had to go off to school, while still trapped in the boy's body. This book is probably a little too weird for younger readers, but for kids who are the right age, it should be a huge success. The humor is both kooky and subversive, and Kitamura's trademark, manga-ish stylized artwork is lots of fun. worth checking out if your kid likes stories that are just a little bit weird. (B)


"So, What's It Like To Be A Cat?"
Written by Karla Kuskin
Illustrated by Betsy Lewin
(Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, 2005)

A young boy interviews his family cat (presumably for a school project or a doctoral thesis...) and the cat answers his questions, in a typically detached, lofty manner, about how housecats feel about life, and about the clumsy apes that take care of them. Kuskin succinctly captures the you-know-I'm-royalty-right? attitude of a well-heeled feline, and gets in some some good zingers along the way. The rhyme scheme of her poetry is pretty complex and you may lose the rhythm from time to time, although it won't really affect your enjoyment of the book. As ever, Betsy Lewin's cartoonish artwork is a delight -- she's especially good at capturing the little quirks of kitty cats. A nice book - a real treat for cat lovers! (B+)


"The Owl And The Pussycat"
Written by Edward Lear
Illustrated by James Marshall
(Harper Collins, 1998)

A really fun book. Lear's beloved nonsense poem is vividly and joyously brought to life by children's book author James Marshall (known for his James & Martha and Stupids series....) There are several picturebook adaptations of this same text, but this is the best one I've seen... It's just so readable and visually appealing! Recommended! (A+)


"K Is For Kitten"
Written by Niki Clark Leopold
Illustrated by Susan Jeffers
(Putnam, 2002)

One of our favorite alphabet books! This is largely because of the lovely artwork by Susan Jeffers (we're big fans) and also because of the strength of the writing, as well as the overall kitty-cattishness of the whole book. K Is For Kitten is also notable for being am alphabet book with a coherent narrative -- an actual beginning, middle and end -- deftly told through the course of its twenty-six character arc. It tells the tale of a little stray cat, Miss Rosie, who is rescued from an alley ("A"), brought home, fed and protected by a little girl and her family. Her main protector turns out to be the family dog, Amos, a gentle old hound who saves Rosie from mischief and mishaps, and also calmly endures the bites and pounces that come with having a little kitten in the house. The ending -- with the three of them, the little girl, the kitten and dog, all curling up to sleep together -- is one of the sweetest scenes in any of the books we've read. Rosie's rambunctiousness and the richly detailed artwork will give you lots to talk about -- in panel after panel, Jeffers catches the true essence of her subjects, and makes you believe in the reality of what you see. Recommended! (A)


"Nini Here And There"
Written by Anita Lobel
Illustrated by Anita Lobel
(Greenwillow, 2007)

Nini, the grey tabby cat, knows something's up when the humans in the house start to pack up all their stuff... Worried that they plan to leave without her, Nini makes a nuisance of herself by sitting on top of things she knows they'll want. Then... she sees they've also got kitty carrying case out! By then, it's too late, and Nini gets scooped up, then zipped into her big black carrying bag. She protests, but eventually gives up and drift off to sleep, and thus begins the most wonderful part of this book: Nini's dream. Going from one fantastic scenario to another, Nini dozes her way to a new home. Here, the chunky, collage-ish artwork really takes off -- observant readers may notice little details like how each page hints at the page to come: the palm tree Nini sits under turns into palm tree wallpaper, a tiny boat in the corner of one page becomes a full-blown kitty ship inthe next. And so on. Finally, when Nini wakes up, the humans let her out and she sees her new home, a beautiful country house with a wide, green orchard and lots of grass to romp around in. Talk about happy endings! This is a wonderful book, particularly for the kitty-kat inclined. (A-)


"Bittle"
Written by Emily & Patricia MacLachlan
Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
(Joanna Cotler, 2004)

A sweet story written by the mother-daughter team of Patricia and Emily MacLachlan, in which the arrival of a new baby is seen through the eyes of the household pets, a pragmatic cat called Nigel and a neurotic canine named Julia. When the baby comes, the "man and the woman" assume it sleeps peacefully all night long, which leaves it up to Nigel and Julia to pick up the slack in the childcare department. Although the dog is initially resentful of the newcomer, she grows to love her, as does the cat. So close is their bond, in fact, that the Bittle's first words are "woof" and "meow!" This bright, playful romp is a fun way to approach the whole anxiety-about-the-second-child, sibling rivalry issue -- it also reads well for single-child families; the doggie and the kitty are engaging all by themselves, and the story is a hoot. The highly stylized, cartoonish art by Dan Yaccarino is a delight... Yaccarino, a television animator who has recently emerged as a picturebook author, adds a liveliness and good humor that perfectly matches that of the text. Great book!
(A)


"Heartaches Of A French Cat"
Written by Barbara McClintock
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(David R. Godine, 1989)

(-)


"Molly And The Magic Wishbone"
Written by Barbara McClintock
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Frances Foster Books/Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2001)

An original fairytale, cloaked in Dickensian urban hustle and bustle and filled with colorful, deliciously complex artwork. Molly, a kitten, is the eldest of several children, and when their mother falls ill, she is put in charge of all the little ones. On her way to pick up food for dinner, she goes to the fish market and is given a magic wishbone by a mysterious old crone (read: fairy godmother)... Back home, her siblings are full of frivolous suggestions for how to use the wish, but Molly holds off until she knows exactly what she wants. Just as she's about to make her wish, Molly discovers that her smallest sister is missing -- she went out to the market alone to try and find a wishbone of her own -- and Molly rushes out in the cold and dark to rescue the toddler. When all else fails, Molly decides to use her magic wish selflessly -- to find her missing sister. A thoroughly charming story, with gorgeous artwork that helps soften a slightly scary story. Recommended!
(B+)


"Cat And Dog"
Written by Else Homelund Minarik
Illustrated by Fritz Seibel
(Harper & Row, 1960)

I always fall for this one: I see it at the library and think, Oh goodie! An old-fashioned book about a cat and a dog written by the lady who did the Little Bear books with Maurice Sendak... That'll be fun! And then I try and read it, and its full of brainless Tom & Jerry-style violence. Boring and violent. You can skip it and miss absolutely nothing. (F)


"Come Here, Cleo"
Written by Caroline Mockford
Illustrated by Stella Blackstone
(Barefoot Books, 2001)

This was one of the first books I bought for our baby -- I liked the bright, simple artwork -- and one of the first ones I sold back to a used bookstore, because I found the story was just too goofy and dumb. A little cat wakes up, sees a butterfly and follows it outside, where she plays until a child brings her back in and gives her a hug. Okay. Whatever. Not a lot of depth, but it's visually appealing and cheerful. My kid liked it okay, but it was never a big favorite. (C+)


"Cleo's Counting Book"
Written by Caroline Mockford
Illustrated by Stella Blackstone
(Barefoot Books, 2004)

This is a perfectly servicable number counting book... Cleo the cat counts from one to ten, then back again, with cheerful, simple artwork that conveys the information. My only complaints are these: first, the colorful, patterned numbers are a little hard to see clearly or differentiate. More annoying, though, is the part where Cleo is counting "seven shiny fishes..." Um, hello? The plural of "fish" is "fish." "Fishes" is not a real word. Can we get an editor in here, please? (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)


"Where Is Little Reynard?"
Written by Joyce Carol Oates
Illustrated by Mark Graham
(Ecco Press, 2003)

Little Reynard is a shy little kitten, the runt of the litter and the only orange kitten among the lot. His brothers and sisters tease him and won't let him play with them, and they even nudge him aside from the food bowl. Reynard is too timid to stick up for himself, but his owner, a girl named Lily, protects him and makes sure he gets his fair share of food. One day, when the window is left open, Reynard is lured out into the snowy forest by a pair of fox cubs, who accept Reynard as one of their own (because his orange coat looks like theirs) and he has a great time playing with them in the woods. When he comes back home, Reynard has newfound confidence -- his siblings might not be nice to him, but his friends were -- and becomes a more bounciful, happy cat. In literal terms, there are a few elements that don't ring true -- mostly that in real life the fox family would eat the cat, not play with it -- but as a narrative and a metaphor, this certainly rings true emotionally. Mark Graham's artwork is delicious and evocative, and the story is a nice mix of dark emotions and personal redemption. A favorite in our household. (B+)


"Where's The Baby?"
Written by Tom Paxton
Illustrated by Mark Graham
(Morrow Junior Books, 1993)

Folksinger Tom Paxton, who has made a fine career turn as a children's music performer, adds this lovely text to the modern children's library, which follows a little baby through its evening rituals, from coming home in the car, to dinner, booktime, bath and bed. The narrator is a little black kitten who follows the baby from room to room, wondering where it has gone, until finally finding it going to sleep for the night. Although the pastel chalk artwork could be a little more fluid, it is realistic and easy to follow and has good details to point out and discuss Paxton's rhyming text is, naturally, spotless and immaculately crafted, although it's probably best to just read as straight text and not try to sing it -- I found myself getting a little tripped up amid the quirky Paxtonian lilts... A nice bit of little lit, with an emotional tug at the end that sappy parents (like me!) will love. (A)


"Kitten In Trouble"
Written by Nancy Polushkin
Illustrated by Betsy Lewin
(Simon & Schuster, 1988)

I love Betsy Lewin's artwork, and this was the book where I first discovered her light, sketchy, playful style... This is a giddy romp along with a rambunctious little kitten who attacks sleeping feet, knocks over furniture, brings breakfast crashing to the floor and gets stuck 'way up high in the biggest tree in the neighborhood... But, gosh darn if he ain't a cute little devil. This is a great book with a fun refrain that little kids will enjoy: "UH-OH! Kitten's in trouble!" You'll love this book.
(A-)


"Come Along Kitten"
Written by Joanne Ryder
Illustrated by Susan Winter
(Simon & Schuster, 2003)

A sweet book in which a big, gentle (parent) dog takes a cute little (toddler) kitten out for a walk, letting the kitten run ahead and sniff the flowers and chase the bees in a vast, flowing field. A nice parable about letting toddlers feel independent and free. The gentle, affectionate relationship between the cat and dog is charming -- very similar to the kitten-canine duo of Miss Rosie and Amos, from Niki Clark Leopold's K Is For Kitten, one of our favorite alphabet books. This book borders on the icky-sweet, but it's still pretty nice. (B)


"I Love Cats"
Written by Barney Saltzberg
Illustrated by Barney Saltzberg
(Candlewick, 2005)

...And who doesn't love kitties?? This is an okay book, with very simple text and reasonably appealing artwork, though very little plot. A purple-jammie clad little girl pets and pampers all sorts of cute, cartoony felines, including cats in trees and sinks and paper bags. This one didn't really grab my imagination, but it's not bad. Part of a whole series of "I Like..." and "I Love..." titles. (B-)


"Pumpkin Cat"
Written by Ann Turner
Illustrated by Amy June Bates
(Hyperion, 2004)

An orange tabby cat gets lost during a rainstorm and shelters inside a book drop at a local library. In the morning the librarians find her, and decide to adopt her and call her Pumpkin Cat, making her the library's mascot during the Halloween season. Pumpkin Cat is happy and loves her new home, but finds it a bit lonely at night... After the library's big Halloween party, though, one of the kids leaves a little black kitten on their doorstep, and she becomes Pumpkin Cat's pal... Kitty cats, libraries and Halloween... who could ask for more?? The storytelling's a little stiff, but their hearts were in the right place. Nice seasonal offering. (B)


"Ginger"
Written by Charlotte Voake
Illustrated by Charlotte Voake
(Candlewick, 1997)

A delightful, if painfully accurate, story about two housepets who don't get along. Ginger is the older and more established cat of the house, and he is terribly put out when his human -- a sweet little girl -- brings home a rambunctious, new little kitten. After the kitten raids Ginger's food and crowds him in his basket bed, the older cat leaves home in protest. The little girl finds Ginger huddled outside, and figures out how to resolve the problem (by giving the kitten his own food and bed) and the two cats wind up being friends after all. Nice text and illustrations, easy to follow and discuss. Recommended!
(B+)


"Ginger Finds A Home"
Written by Charlotte Voake
Illustrated by Charlotte Voake
(Candlewick, 2003)

A prequel to Voake's endearing Ginger, this tells the story of how an emaciated stray cat living outside in the bushes is tamed by a little girl who offers him food and affection. The sadness of the introductory part is balanced by the happy ending. Still, this story ends a bit abruptly and lacks the character growth of the first book... Affection for the cat and the little girl will draw readers in, and this volume gives just enough to satisfy that interest. I'd love to see a third Ginger book where the kitties have more of an adventure; I think that would help this one feel a bit more whole and less like it's dangling in space. Overall, though, it's another nice book. and captures the feline mind with economy and grace.
(B)


"Only The Cat Saw"
Written by Ashley Wolff
Illustrated by Ashley Wolff
(Walker & Company, 1996)

An inquisitive farm cat stays up all night long and sees the magical moments that the humans in the family miss -- a beautiful sunset, fireflies at dusk, a shooting star crossing the sky at night. The cat's epiphanous moments are shown in wide, wordless, colorfully drawn double-page spreads, with art that ably evokes the magoc the author is trying to summon; meanwhile the family's nighttime rituals are show with an affectionate calm... They eat dinner, bathe, sleep, dream and get up to go potty or nurse the baby, and then get up for breakfast, all told in an economical fashion that gives their everyday activities an equal sense of wonder. A nice, sweet book. Recommended!
(B+)




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