I Am a Witch’s Cat by Harriet Muncaster
A little girl believes that her mother is a witch and that she is her mother’s black cat. Dressed in a cat costume, the little girl gives examples of the witchy things that her mother does each day. She has potions in the bathroom that the little girl isn’t allowed to touch. She buys weird things at the grocery store. She goes magical herbs (like carrots) in her garden that she then uses to make potions in the kitchen. She has a group of friends who come over and they cackle together. All of these examples are shown in the pictures to be completely normal and easily explained. But a nice little twist at the end of the book will have readers wondering if perhaps there’s some truth to her mother being a good witch!
Told entirely in first person by the unnamed little girl, this book is jaunty and playful. It is a very positive depiction of a family of two, their interactions together glow with warmth and connection. The dynamic between the beliefs of the little girl about her mother and the mundane truths shown in the illustrations will have children trying to figure out whether the mother is a witch or not. It’s a simple premise for a book that lets the unique illustrations shine.
And what illustrations they are! Muncaster has created miniature worlds out of paper, fabric and other materials and then photographed them for the illustrations. They have a wonderful wit and dazzle to them. At first the 3D effect is subtle enough to be missed, but once it catches your eye you will be entranced with these unique and lovely illustrations.
Filled with Halloween magic, this book is one amazing treat. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.
Naughty Kitty! by Adam Stower
A follow up to Silly Doggy!, this book also features Lily and now a very large cat. From the end pages, readers will know that there is an animal loose from the zoo. Lily though is far too taken up with bringing her new kitten home. Her mother was sure that Kitty wouldn’t be any trouble at all. At first that was true, but when Lily left the kitten alone in the kitchen for just a moment, she returned to find it completely trashed. What Lily doesn’t know but the readers could see clearly was that the tiger that had escaped from the zoo was the one who made the mess. The same thing happened when Lily left Kitty alone in the living room. There is even a rug that is ruined with an accident of large proportions. Happily, Lily remains completely oblivious to the tiger and in the end Kitty gets the credit rather than the blame for what the tiger has done.
Stower’s humor is zingy and broad here. He doesn’t hold back on the visual jokes or on Lily’s reactions to the actually sedate little cat. Children will immediately get the humor of mistaken identity and will pay close attention to spot the tiger on the pages where Lily can’t seem to see him. The ending is completely satisfying, particularly because Lily continues to be oblivious to what is actually happening around her and readers will be surprised by a full view of the truth as well.
The art tells much of the story here with the narrative almost entirely from Lily’s perspective. The tiger can be spotted right before each disaster and right afterwards too. The illustrations are energetic and filled with action and the entire book reads like a cartoon episode.
Funny and a great read aloud, this book is sure to keep attention focused and kids giggling. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Orchard Books.
Here Comes the Easter Cat by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Claudia Rueda
Easter books can be so filled with yellow fluffy chicks, bright Easter eggs, and soft bunnies that the become more than a bit stale. Enter the Easter Cat, a character who offers exactly what was missing in Easter books: cats! Cat wants to be able to do what the Easter Bunny does and deliver chocolate himself. But he’s going to have to figure a lot of things out before he begins: what exactly will be deliver? How will he travel? What will he wear? All of those decisions wear him out so he decides to take his eighth nap of the day, after all, he is a cat. But then he learns that the Easter Bunny never naps at all. Are all of his plans ruined? Perhaps he just needs a little help from the famous Easter Bunny himself.
Underwood of The Quiet Book has created an uproariously funny book this time. Her Cat character doesn’t speak at all, instead the reader quizzes Cat on what exactly he is doing. Cat communicates through his expressions and holding up signs most of which have cartoon drawings on them outlining his plans. The words in the book take on the tone of a parent, making it a real delight to read aloud. The reader can go from cajoling to stern and back again.
Rueda’s illustrations carry much of the storytelling since Cat doesn’t speak. She manages to convey his emotions very clearly on his face and in his stance. Cat is a very enjoyable character with big plans that aren’t very well thought out. This book on the other hand, has illustrations and words that work together flawlessly.
With the humor of Melanie Watt or Elephant and Piggie, this picture book is sure to find an eager Easter audience. Ideal for perching in baskets, this book is good enough to share all year round. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books for Young Readers.
Captain Cat by Inga Moore
Captain Cat is a trader, but he’s not very good at making profitable deals. You see, instead of trading for riches, he trades for cats. So his ship is full of them. All of the other traders make fun of him for this, but Captain Cat is very happy surrounded by the furry creatures. He decides to head off and see new places, far from the trade routes he usually travels. On the way, he is caught in a violent storm that blows him off course, right off the map! There he discovers a small rocky island led by a young queen. She and the population are very friendly, and have never seen cats before. When the cats take care of the island’s rat problem, the queen begs Captain Cat to leave them behind. What is a cat-loving caption to do?
This is a very engaging book. It was different right off of the bat with a sailor surrounded by cats who hate water. Throughout the story, it continues to surprise and delight. It never heads where you expect it to, yet ends up being completely delightful both along the way and in the end. Unlike many picture books, Moore tells a full story here. It not only has the structure of a full story, but also has a depth that can be missing in picture books.
The illustrations are finely done with lots of details. Done in mixed media, they have fine lines and soft colors. Thanks to their detail, this book would best be used with small groups or individual children.
Take a feline-filled journey with this clever picture book. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Mr. Wuffles by David Wiesner
The masterful Wiesner returns with another near-wordless picture book. Mr. Wuffles is a cat who disdains most of the toys his master gets him. Then one object gets his attention, a little metallic spaceship. But this is not a toy! It is filled with tiny aliens who are battered by being flung around by Mr. Wuffles. Their equipment is damaged and they have to leave their ship and head out looking for help. But Mr. Wuffles is close behind them and who can the aliens turn to for aid?
This is a magnificent picture book that turns from a normal cat picture book into something much more interesting. Wiesner has created a book that bridges genres effortlessly. He also has created a wordless picture book that never seems to be missing them. His story flows organically and is never forced. It has touches of humor throughout especially where Mr. Wuffles himself is concerned. I particularly enjoy the rows of untouched toys with price tags still attached that he walks past.
Wiesner’s art is as strong as ever. He pays attention to details both in the human home and later when the aliens arrive. The juxtaposition of the aliens with the insects of the home is particularly well done. The addition of cave paintings as communication is a delight.
Beautiful and funny this is a wordless masterpiece. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Is It Big or Is It Little? by Claudia Rueda
Explore opposites and perspective in this little book. It is the story of a mouse and a cat, who chase across the pages, changing the perspective the reader sees from on each page. Is the ball of yarn big as seen by the mouse? Or is it little when seen by the cat? Deep water for the mouse becomes shallow when the cat heads in. Light objects for the mouse are heavy for ants. And even the most scary creature can also be scared themselves.
Rueda’s text is done in simple questions that show the opposite concepts clearly. The real draw of this book are the illustrations which have a minimalism that is very appealing. Done entirely in grays, black and orange, the illustrations have a pop edge to them that is both graphically pleasing and has great touches of humor.
Bright and bold, this book approaches opposites and perspective with a clever storyline and elegant illustrations. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
A Year with Marmalade by Alison Reynolds, illustrated by Heath McKenzie
One autumn, Maddy told Ella that she is going away for a year and asked her to take care of her cat, Marmalade. Both Ella and Marmalade cry and cry when Maddy leaves. Ella can’t find anyone to play in the leaves with her, pick and munch apples, or stomp in puddles. Then one frosty morning, Ella wakes up to find her feet warm and Marmalade sleeping on her bed. As winter arrives, Ella and Marmalade get closer and closer. Spring comes and the two work together in the garden and head to the beach together. Maddy returns with the autumn, but what will happen now with Marmalade?
This book is a smart mix of waiting for a friend to return and seasons. Along the way, there is also the chance to make a new friend too. The dance of the seasons moves the story along nicely, creating a timeline along which readers can see the relationship between Ella and Marmalade growing and changing.
It is the illustrations that make this book more than just a book about friendship in a crowded picture book market. McKenzie combines black and white line drawings with bursts of color. Marmalade is always shown as a pop of orange, while the human characters remain black and white. The effect has an appealing lightness.
A picture book about moving, friendships and change, this lovely little picture book would make a nice addition to units on seasons as well. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.
The Misadventures of Salem Hyde: Spelling Trouble by Frank Cammuso
This is the first book in an upcoming graphic novel series for children in elementary school. Salem Hyde is a witch, so sometimes she misunderstands what the other kids at school are talking about. She insists she is a good speller and goes on to prove it by casting a spell. Unfortunately, the spell turned a teacher into an enormous dinosaur. After that, Salem’s family decide that she needs an animal companion. Salem thinks a unicorn would be perfect, but she gets a cat instead: a cat named Percival J. Whamsford III. As his name indicates, he has a very different personality than Salem. Let the fun begin!
Done in black and white illustrations, this graphic novel has the feel of a traditional comic strip rather than a graphic novel. That is not a complaint, in fact I enjoyed the more Calvin and Hobbes feel to the book with moments that stood on their own and the whole telling a full story. Cammuso’s art has a traditional vibe to it, one that will have mass appeal. The humor is slick, funny and age appropriate offering silly moments galore.
A strong beginning to a new series, Salem Hyde should be welcome at all libraries as long as she doesn’t try to “spell.” Appropriate for ages 7-9.
Reviewed from ARC received from Amulet Books.