Tag: cats

Review: The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems

The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems

The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems, illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi (InfoSoup)

Diva is a little white dog who lives in a grand apartment building in Paris. She is so small that she is smaller than a foot, which makes her run whenever she hears footsteps of strangers coming. She loves to spend time in the apartment courtyard, though even there she is often startled or scared. Flea is an alleycat who spends his time moving from place to the place in Paris. He has had a lot of adventures throughout the city and has many tales to share. This unlikely pair meet when Flea unintentionally upsets Diva by hanging around her courtyard. Diva teaches Flea about things like going inside for breakfast while Flea teachers Diva about exploring out in the public streets and learning to meet people rather than running away.

Willems was living in Paris when he discovered this story right at his own apartment building, a little dog who was friends with a stray cat. He has taken that initial inspiration and created two outstanding characters in Diva and Flea. The combination of being pampered and frightened is quite clever and a much more creative choice than being pampered and spoiled rotten. Flea too is not stereotypical. He has a very metropolitan flair rather than being uncouth and rude. Their friendship develops right on the page, each of them learning from the other and seeing one another in a new way with each encounter.

The art by DiTerlizzi is gorgeous. He captures the compact vigor of Diva and her panic attacks. Then there is the rangy motion of Flea, where you can almost see him move on the page with his shifting muscles under his fur. Paris too is captured along with them as they look at the Eiffel Tower. I was grinning ear-to-ear to see Willems himself pop onto the page as the person that Diva first attempts not to run away from. Clever indeed.

Another winner from Willems, this book offers his fans a new chapter book with some grand new characters. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Black Cat, White Cat by Silvia Borando

Black Cat White Cat by Silvia Borando

Black Cat, White Cat by Silvia Borando (InfoSoup)

Black Cat is entirely black, from his ears to his tail. White Cat is entirely white. Black Cat only goes out during the day when he can see swallows flying, White Cat only goes out at night when the stars are out. Then one day, Black Cat decides to see the night. And that is how Black Cat and White Cat meet. The two decide to explore day and night together. The night has fireflies while the day has bumblebees. The day has daisies, birds and butterflies while the night has snakes, bats and mice. The two cats become best friends, and eventually have kittens of their own. And you will never guess what color they are!

Borando is an Italian author. Here she uses lovely simple language to convey the wonder of both night and day as seen through a fresh set of eyes. The budding friendship of the two cats is captured in a lively way on the page, each of them sharing their world with the other. The illustrations and design of the book is what makes it special. The use of just the two colors on the page, black and white is done with a subtle humor. Borando creates scenarios where the black cat provides the dark background for the white cat to appear against in the day time and then reverses it. These clever little twists are a joy.

Graphically interesting and beautifully designed, this picture book even has a surprise ending to enjoy. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats by Alicia Potter

Miss Hazeltines Home for Shy and Fearful Cats by Alicia Potter

Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats by Alicia Potter, illustrated by Birgitta Sif (InfoSoup)

Miss Hazeltine opened a home for the most fearful of cats and owners brought their cats to her for help. Other cats arrived on their own, including Crumb, who was the most timid. Miss Hazeltine taught the cats lessons to help them build their confidence from Bird Basics to How Not to Fear the Broom, the hardest class of all. Even though Crumb hid under the bed, he too got Miss Hazeltine’s positive attention as she praised him for not being scared of the dark. Then one day after many, many cats had arrived, they ran out of milk. Miss Hazeltine set off in the dark to get some, but met with a fall into a ditch. When she did not return, the cats worried but they all hesitated to head out into the night. Crumb was the only one who had heard where Miss Hazeltine was going, so it was up to him to lead a rescue by cats who were once shy and fearful.

Quirky and wonderfully odd, this picture book will resonate with children who may be afraid of a variety of things. Potter’s language is filled with lovely moments of humor and equally marvelous times of quiet. Using lists of things like fears or lessons, she creates a strong storyline that is very appealing. The character of Miss Hazeltine is strongly written, a woman embracing her own unique skills. Crumb too is a small and shy cat who grows the heart of a lion by the end of the book. Filled with plenty of growth and development of characters, this is great fun to share aloud.

The illustrations by Sif add a great level of spirited oddity to the book. Miss Hazeltine is lanky and loving. The cats use their tails as much as their faces for expression. The setting ranges from the cozy house filled with cats to the deep dark strangeness of the woods. In all of them, the eyes of the cats glow and fill the setting with plenty of life.

Add this to any cat story time or a unit on bravery for a winning read! Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Knopf Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.

Review: Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret by Bob Shea

ballet cat

Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret by Bob Shea

Released May 5, 2015.

Ballet Cat and Sparkles the Pony want to play together, but first they have to decide what to play. Sparkles has lots of ideas, like doing crafts, playing checkers and selling lemonade, but none of them work when Ballet Cat wants to be able to spin and leap and twirl. Very reluctantly, Sparkles offers to play ballet with her instead and Ballet Cat jumps at the opportunity. Sparkles though is not having a very good time. When Ballet Cat asks him what is wrong, Sparkles doesn’t want to say in case she won’t be friends with him any longer. Ballet Cat though has her own secret that she doesn’t want to tell Sparkles either. It will take one very brave pair of friends to share these secrets.

Shea has created a new series for beginning readers that is sure to appeal. Ballet Cat and Sparkles fill the page with humor that is broad but also wry and clever. It’s the perfect mix for young children navigating their own friendships. The best parts are when the characters are at odds with one another and when they state the obvious. It’s writing that reads as if small children were saying it without ever putting them down.

The art is pure Shea, dynamic and colorful. It is filled with action and activity and emotions too. Shea excels at showing emotions on his characters that are done strongly enough that small children will be able to understand immediately how a character is feeling. Sparkles in particular emotes clearly on the page, his body language and expressions showing exactly how he feels.

A strong new beginning reader series about friendship that is perfect for Elephant and Piggie fans. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Disney-Hyperion and Netgalley.

Review: Counting Crows by Kathi Appelt

counting crows

Counting Crows by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey (InfoSoup)

This playful picture book comes from the author of The Underneath and other novels for older children. This counting book does not move from one to twelve, but instead starts at three and allows a merry amount of counting along the way. Throughout the action is led by the crows who climb around on trees, sit on lines and find all sorts of treats to eat, including spicy ants. The story moves forward with counting until there are twelve crows who then discover one cat!

Appelt proves that she can be a very successful writer for any age of child with her first picture book. Her rhyme reads aloud so well that it’s impossible to read it silently to yourself. It has a great rhythm and buoyancy to it, giving the book a really dynamic energy and feel. I also enjoy a book that has counting in it, but isn’t solely a counting book. This one tells a full story in a cheery way and allows you to share it either as a story book or a concept book.

The illustrations truly make the book unique. Using light drawings with touches of red, the book pops. Readers may notice the one scarf-wearing crow who appears in each scene and then they can see what happens to the scarf after the cat appears. It’s a nice touch that may have some readers turning back to trace the scarf from the beginning of the book.

Bouncy, rhyming, fun and jaunty, this picture book has its own unique tone and feel that readers will appreciate. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Review: Tiptop Cat by C Roger Mader

tiptop cat

Tiptop Cat by C. Roger Mader

When the cat comes to his new home, he sets out to explore.  He looks around discovers that he can get outside to the balcony.  And from there, he can head up and up to the rooftop where he finds a favorite spot on the top of a chimney.  Then one morning as he is dozing on the balcony, a pigeon comes and lands on the railing.  The cat turns into a hunter and starts stalking the bird, finally pouncing on it.  But birds can fly, and cats cannot.  So the cat fell, down, down, down.  Falling right through an awning and into the arms of a man.  No bones were broken, but the cat lost any desire to head outside.  He hid in baskets, under rugs and behind curtains.  But then, a crow came to the balcony and strutted up and down and once again the cat became interested in the outdoors and in his favorite high-up place.

Mader captures the essence of a domestic cat on the page.  From the very first image of the cat with birthday ribbons, readers will know that this is an author who understands cats and the way they think.  Mader uses very simple language in the book, letting the images tell much of the story.  In fact, the illustrations are so very strong that the book could easily be wordless.

And the illustrations are stunning.  They are detailed and realistic.  The format switches from full page and double page spreads to panels that move the action forward in a wonderfully energetic way.  As the cat moves to the fateful pounce, the panels show him edging forward, lengthening the time before the moment of movement.  In the same way, the larger pages show the cat’s fall down and down, making it last and last, creating real drama on the way down. 

This dazzlingly illustrated picture book will have cat lovers meowing with joy and even the smallest children leaned forward to see what befalls this fearless feline.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood

here comes santa cat

Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Claudia Rueda

Cat tries out a new disguise in this follow up to Here Comes the Easter Cat.  Cat is worried that he has not been nice enough to get a present from Santa.  So his solution is to become Santa so that he can give himself a present.  Of course, he has to learn how to climb down chimneys, which doesn’t go well.  He also has to figure out how to fly without Santa’s magic reindeer.  Perhaps a jet pack?  He tries giving gifts to children, but they don’t seem to appreciate the fish.  He even tries to decorate a tree, but it too ends in disaster.  What is one naughty cat to do?

Underwood has created a delightful sequel to her first Cat book.  Once again Cat uses signs to communicate with the reader.  The voice of the narrator is one of an adult, making this an ideal book to be read aloud by a teacher or parent.  The rather disapproving but still encouraging tone of the narrator sets up the humor perfectly and with Underwood’s clear sense of comedic timing, the results are hilarious. 

Rueda’s art adds to the zany humor, often serving as the final funny note to a gag.  She uses gentle colors and delicate lines, supporting the storyline clearly.  Her comedic timing too is wonderfully spot on.

A very funny addition to crowded Christmas picture book shelves, save this one to share aloud on Christmas Eve.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial.