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.
Thumpy Feet by Betsy Lewin
Cat owners will immediately see their own cats in Thumpy Feet. He spends his day playing, sleeping, cleaning himself, and hunting. The book takes a very simple but also very playful look at this active cat. Small children will see their own days of naps and play reflected in this book and will also be drawn in by the jaunty rhymes and bright illustrations.
Lewin keeps the book very simple with her language. Using phrases like “flippy flip” and “yawny yawn” makes this a story that is great fun to share aloud. The simplicity of the subject also lends this to be used very successfully with small children. Additionally, the illustrations are large, bright and simple.
This book is perfect for toddlers and librarians will be happy to add this jolly book to their cat storytimes. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from library copy.
Lulu and the Cat in the Bag by Hilary McKay
This third Lulu book continues the story of Lulu’s love affair with any type of animal. In this story, a cat is dropped off on Lulu’s doorstep in a bag. Lulu opens the bag over her aunt’s objections. Her aunt is watching her while her parents are on vacation and is not fond of animals at all. When the bag is opened, the cat goes running off and disappears. Though Lulu searches for it, she is unable to find it. When she returns to her room later, the cat is there on her bed, having climbed in through her open window. Steadily, the big orange cat starts to become part of the family, even changing Lulu’s aunts thoughts on cats in general. It dominates the two dogs, scares the bird and even gathers flowers from the garden to scatter about the house. Then the cat simply disappears, they search for it with Lulu’s aunt’s help, but no one can find it. Until Lulu makes a surprising discovery!
I’ve enjoyed all of the Lulu books so far and this just adds to the delight that is this series. Lulu is a wonderful protagonist. It is a pleasure to see a child character so into animals who does her chores and takes good care of her animals with no complaining. Lulu is also quite a scamp, so the book are filled with a natural childhood zest and Lulu’s own special take on things. This is another great treat of a book from McKay.
A series to rival Clementine, get this into the hands of those readers and they will find a new feisty young heroine to love. Appropriate for ages 6-8.
Reviewed from digital galley received from
How to Be a Cat by Nikki McClure
Small Kitten follows the lead of Big Cat as they go through their day in this very simple picture book. With just one word per page, the story is told more in the images than in the words. The little kitten practices how to clean himself, how to hunt bugs and butterflies, and how to listen. As the two of them explore the house and garden, the book shows a day filled with exploration and learning.
Told through dynamic cut-paper art, this simple book has a powerful sense of style. The images are black and white, cut from a single piece of paper with just a touch of blue at times. Thanks to this, the images pop and would work well for sharing with groups of children.
Ideal for toddlers, this is a clear and beautiful look at feline fun. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from library copy.
Snow School by Sandra Markle, illustrated by Alan Marks
High in the mountains of Pakistan, two week-old snow leopard cubs snooze in a den waiting for their mother to return. It’s May and the pair are only a week old. When the male cub goes outside, he is attacked by a golden eagle and only saved by his mother rescuing him. As the cubs grow, the practice pouncing one another and then start to eat directly from the game their mother kills. Their mother teaches them skills they must have to survive in the harsh climate. They learn to mark their territory, to silently hunt, to be quick, to guard their food, to find shelter when snow comes, and when to retreat. It is a story of how small cubs grow into strong hunters and how these great and beautiful cats manage to survive in their mountainous and cold habitat.
Markle is the author of over 200 books for children. In this one she takes on one of the most elusive creatures on earth and shows the strong family bonds and the huge amount of learning these young cats must accomplish to live. She writes her nonfiction in verse, making it more easily read. Nicely, as the mother is teaching her cubs, Markle makes sure readers understand the lesson by repeating it neatly at the end of the stanza.
Marks’ illustrations capture the snow leopards and their beauty and grace. There are moments of such daring leaps and heart pounding danger that Marks captures with flawless accuracy. His use of soft watercolors adds to the mystique of these cats and also captures the speed and motion as they hunt.
Beautiful illustrations and strong text result in a book that will teach children much about the snow leopards and their lives. Appropriate for ages 7-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.
Binky Takes Charge by Ashley Spires
Binky has now been promoted to lieutenant in first against the aliens. It means that he is now in charge of training new recruits. But his first recruit is definitely not what he had been expecting. To start with, he isn’t a cat! He’s a dog! Binky sets out to train the new cadet anyway, trying to ignore the fact that he pees on the floor, won’t use the litter box, doesn’t respect the idea of a cat nap, and is unable to pounce a fake alien on a string. Soon Binky is questioning more than his cadet’s skills, perhaps he’s really a spy for the aliens! Now Binky sets out to prove what he suspects, but he’s in for a few surprises along the way.
The Binky series is one of my favorite graphic novel series for children. It is a treat to see our alien-fighting (actually insect fighting) hero reach new ranks here. The addition of a dog into the series is brilliant, especially one who may be a spy for the flies. Add in the farting and the physical humor, and you have a series that is bound to appeal to reluctant readers as well as eager readers.
Spires’ art is done in a limited color palette. Her black and white cat lives in a sepia-toned world that has bursts of color. This palette could read as vintage, but here the modern lines and modern story keep it up-to-date and great fun.
This is another strong book in a great series. It’s a must-have for all children’s graphic novel collections. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.