Cat’s Night Out

Cats’ Night Out by Caroline Stutson, illustrated by J. Klassen

A clowder of cats fill the pages here, counted up one by one all the way to twenty.  (Don’t you love the term “clowder" for a group of cats?  It’s very appropriate here because it sounds so much like “louder.”)  On each page, the cats appear in different dance costumes and a different type of dance is shown.  Line dancing with rhinestones, tangoing in red capes, and polkaing in flip-flops are just some of the great matchups of costume and dance.  The cats dance until the people in the apartment buildings can’t take the noise anymore. Readers will love dancing to dawn with these delightful felines.

Stutson has created a counting book that is a pleasure to read aloud.  Her rhymes are unforced and natural, with the vowels rhyming but rarely the full word, creating a more flowing verse.  The illustrations take this book to another level.  Done in subtle browns and grays, the setting is clearly urban and has the feel of an intimate club that morphs into an almost Broadway show effect as the cats become more numerous.  Klassen evokes a timeless feel with her illustrations but they are definitely modern with a hip, suave tone perfect for these confident dancers. 

Highly recommended, this book is one of the hippest counting books to come along.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

Restoring Harmony

Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony

Sixteen-year-old Molly has lived her entire life on a sheltered island in Canada.  Despite the Collapse ten years ago in 2031, her family has food, shelter and lives an agrarian, self-sufficient life.  But now Molly must leave the island and venture into the United States to bring her grandparents home.  The family doesn’t know if her grandmother is alive or dead, due to communication problems.  To make it worse, Molly must sneak into the United States and only has enough money to get there, not to return.  Molly must brave a country filled with poverty, starvation, no transportation, and ruled by the Organization.  It is one farm girl and her fiddle against the world.

World building is very important in a book like this.  One faulty line of logic and the entire book crumbles.  Anthony has created a world that is carefully built on logic and a great extension of the direction the world is heading in.  The loss of petroleum, the decay of large cities, and the reliance on trading and bartering make for a world that is alarming in its nearness and ambitious in its scope. 

Molly is a glorious protagonist.  She shines with intelligence, resourcefulness and kindness.  Her reliable farmer’s knowledge serves her well in this dystopian novel.  Molly is neither too brave nor too frightened.  She faces danger with squared shoulders and does not seek it out.  Many of the secondary characters are equally well drawn.  Spill, the boy who is able to get anything because of his connections to the Mob, is multidimensional and a great romantic foil to Molly. 

A dystopian fantasy that is hauntingly honest and offers a marvelous heroine, this book is appropriate for ages 13-16.

Reviewed from copy received from Putnam.

Also reviewed by:

2010 Americas Award

The Americas Award is given for works in the US published in the previous year in either English or Spanish that “authentically and engagingly portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or
Latinos in the United States.”

“The award winners and commended titles are selected for their 1) distinctive literary quality; 2)
cultural contextualization; 3) exceptional integration of text, illustration and design; and 4)
potential for classroom use.”


Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez

What Can You Do with a Paleta? / ¿Qué puedes hacer con una paleta? By Carmen
Tafolla, Illustrated by Magaly Morales.


Honorable Mentions

Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann

I Know the River Loves Me / Yo sé que el río me ama by Maya Christina González

My Papa Diego and Me: Memories of My Father and His Art / Mi papa Diego y yo:
Recuerdos de mi padre y su arte by Guadalupe Rivera Marín and Diego Rivera