A house stood on a hill. It was worried because it didn’t have a family to live in it. In fact, the house wondered if it might be haunted! But it didn’t want to be haunted, and hoped that if it behaved perfectly no one would notice that it was spooky. Still, there was nothing to be done about the cobwebs and dust, or the squeaky doors and stairs or the rattles in the pipes. The house tried very hard, staying perfectly still and quiet, holding her breath. But when the wind came, she couldn’t stop the scratch of branches on the roof or the groan of the wind through her windows. It let the house relax again, accepting that she was just spooky. Now all she needed was a family looking for a haunted house that rattled, groaned and squeaked.
This picture book reads aloud really nicely, inviting readers into the struggle of a house that dreams of being entirely different than she is. The writing draws out the noises that the house makes, featuring them so that children listening to the story can help make the sounds too. The house itself is a marvelous character, struggling to be different until she accepts herself as she is with all her creaks and scratches.
The art is just the right amount of spooky for preschoolers, full of purple shadows, long green grass and a black cat to enter the house with. The house herself uses her windows to great effect to smile, worry, and eventually come alight in the night.
A little spooky, full of noise and lots of fun. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Simon and Schuster.
A dog and a cat live together. In the morning, the dog is ready for anything while the cat wakes up more slowly and with a touch of grumpiness. The dog wants breakfast, while the cat isn’t hungry. The dog helps clean up, and the cat walks off. The dog wants to play while the cat avoids him. Their owner sends them outside to play together. The dog is full of delight and eagerness, exploring the backyard with enthusiasm while the cat naps on a tree branch. Finally sent off even further, they head out together and find a common spot to sit and look at the world while sniffing the breeze. Called to come back in, now it’s the dog who doesn’t want to go back inside, doesn’t want to have a bath, or head to bed. It’s the cat who brings the blanket back and gets the dog ready to sleep. But the cat may have other ideas too.
Told in the voices of the cat, dog and their owner, this picture book is marvelously understated. The voices of each character are distinct from one another with the imperious cat, the eager dog, and the owner who’d just like a little peace. The text reads aloud beautifully, since it is solely the voices of the characters with no narration at all.
The art is classic Cooper, telling a story in deft and clever lines. The cat is an elegant black figure against the white background while the dog almost bursts from the page, often looking right at the reader and looking for fun.
A grand picture book of opposites who are the best of friends. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.
Kitty thinks she might be a unicorn. She puts a horn on her head and feels wonderfully unicorny. But the others don’t see her that way. Parakeet and Gecko remind her that she is a cat. But Kitty continues to be a unicorn with hooves and a horn. She even says “Neigh!” Still, Parakeet and Gecko don’t see her as anything but a kitten. When a real unicorn arrives, Kitty flops away, dejected that she can’t be anything like the shining unicorn in front of her. But the unicorn surprises Kitty with his own secret, that he sees himself as a Kitty-Corn. Suddenly Kitty realizes that she too is a Kitty-Corn and has a new friend who supports her and sees her that way too.
What starts out with dressing up and pretending becomes something much deeper in this book that explores identity and the right to be who you are. Kitty faces real derision from Parakeet and Gecko, who live on the margins of the page and comment on who Kitty thinks she is. They are rude and horrible, speaking to Kitty as if they are the only ones who can define who she is. With the arrival of Unicorn, the book changes to one of allyship and friendship.
Pham’s illustrations play into the fuzzy and sweet start of the story. Unicorn’s arrival is stunning, hooves first and then the full reveal. When he goes on to tell the truth about himself, Pham’s illustrations stay just as bright and pink and purple as before. The change happens not in the world around them, but in the magic of their connection.
A brilliant and crafty look at unicorns, kitty-corns and identity. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Katie’s friends are heading away to sleepover camp for the summer but Katie and her mother can’t afford for her to attend. When Katie discovers that she can go for just one week, she creates a plan to earn money in their apartment building. Unfortunately, she kills houseplants, isn’t strong enough to lug groceries up the stairs, and cleaning is a bust too. But when a neighbor discovers that Katie has a way with cats, she asks her to cat sit her 217 cats, who luckily are trained to use the bathroom rather than litterboxes. Very quickly, Katie realizes that these are not normal cats. They use the computer, 3D print things, order pizzas, and destroy the apartment. Just when Katie is about to lose yet another job, the cats come together and repair the apartment before their owner returns. As she continues to cat sit, Katie starts to believe that the owner just might be the infamous burglar who has been roaming the city despite the local superheroes searching for her.
This middle-grade graphic novel is purr-fect feline fun. Set in an urban area filled with less-than-super heroes and crafty villains, Katie’s life is rather mundane. She goes to school, spends time with her single mother, and looks forward to postcards from her best friend. That all changes when she starts cat-sitting and the fascinating cats take over her life. Their naughty evil natures as well as their technology skills make for an unusual job.
The art and words work well together, creating a world primarily set in the single building and the surrounding neighborhood. Full of expressive characters, dynamic cats and strange superheroes, the book is funny and has just the right amount of quirkiness.
A great book for cat lovers and babysitters alike. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Random House Kids.
In this hilarious easy reader, the main character is a dog. But the narrator of the story has other ideas. The first story is simply called “See the Cat” and the dog must insist he certainly is not a cat, definitely not a blue cat in a green dress, and most definitively not riding a unicorn. Still, there’s a nice twist in the end that ends with an embarrassed “red dog.” In the second story, the dog is happily snoozing when the narrator announces that you can “see the snake.” The snake is under the dog, and then gets quite angry. But before the snake can bite the dog, the way the narrator says, the dog comes up with his own solution involving a pencil. In the last story, the reader is told to “see the dog” but then the dog is ordered to spin, jump and even fly or else he will get sat on by a hippo! In the end though, the dog does some bargaining and can go back to napping with no snakes or hippos in sight.
LaRochelle’s easy reader is very funny, just the right sort of humor for young children. The pacing is great with the page turns adding to the moments of reveal and drama. The text is very simple, with the humor playing up the format of an easy reader and it’s straight-forward language. The result is a book that is silly and a delight, something that could be read again and again by new readers who will giggle every time.
The art suits that of an easy reader too, done in simple lines and nice large formats. The dog’s expressions are classic cartoon and add to the humor of the book. When things like the snake and hippo appear, it increases the merriment.
A great addition to easy readers, this one is a hoot! Appropriate for ages 4-6.
On an autumn day, Ollie heads outside wearing her catsuit and followed by her cat, Pumpkin. She was about to jump in a pile of leaves when she noticed that it was moving! Inside she discovered a shivering little kitten. After warming the kitten up, the three of them played together in the woods until they needed a rest. That’s when Ollie accidentally left Pumpkin behind as she continued to play with the kitten, moving farther and farther away. After following a secret path in the woods, Ollie and the kitten found the kitten’s home. But that’s when Ollie realized that she had left Pumpkin behind. She tried to find Pumpkin, but ended up lost in the woods. She was lost until Pumpkin found her and led Ollie back home. Both Ollie and the kitten’s owner were very thankful to be reunited with their beloved cats.
With a distinct Halloween vibe, this picture book is a gentle autumn read that celebrates the love of pets, particularly cats. The story arc is strong, leading children nicely through a full tale with a satisfying conclusion that has a witch flying in the air at the end. Readers will love the suspicion that the kitten’s owner is a witch and then the confirmation in the illustrations.
The illustrations are done in a limited color palette of grays, blacks and pops of orange. The orange appears throughout, in pumpkins, leaves, shutters and other elements on each page. The illustrations contribute to the gentleness of the story as well as its merry take on Halloween.
This one will make you purr with happiness and is just right for anyone looking for a gentle Halloween tale. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Cat Dog Dog by Nelly Buchet, illustrated by Andrea Zuill (9781984848994)
Dog lives all alone with his owner. He has his own toys, his own elaborate bed, his own food and his owner all to himself. A different Dog lives with Cat and their owner. The two of them may not always get along, but they are a family. So when the independent first Dog moves in with Cat and Dog, things don’t go smoothly. Cat hisses, dogs growl over food, and no one sleeps well at first. Then an open window accident leads to the three animals spending some healing time together. After that, the three are Cat Dog Dog, all the time. But another surprise in on the way!
This picture book is told entirely in two words: Dog and Cat. It is the illustrations that tell the story of the relationships between all of the characters. The illustrations are filled with small touches like the moving boxes steadily getting more dominant and the various sleeping places that no one is pleased with. They also show the emotional state of each of the pets, from exasperation to surprise to tolerance.
Funny and honest, this picture book looks at blended families in a way that speaks to both pets and people. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade.
Count up to ten with the help of a lot of dogs and one sneaky cat in this picture book. One dog is alone, but soon joins another dog on a trike. They become three dogs on a scooter, four on a bike. Then five dogs on a trolley and six on a train. Seven on a ferry and eight on a plane, then nine dogs in a hot-air balloon. Ten dogs in a UFO? Wait! Is that a cat? Soon the dogs are moving back through the vehicles, decreasing by one each time, until there are two cats on a trike.
Told very simply, this book has a wonderful fast pace that makes it great fun to share aloud. The vehicles are varied and interesting, making each page turn a surprise. The rhymes are gentle and add to the wildness of the book at just the right moments. The art is graphic and strong, the dogs silly and varied with googly eyes. Readers will see the cat right from the start, which creates a tug of anticipation through the entire first part of the book.
A great book that happens to have counting too. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
The Cat Man of Aleppo by Karim Shamsi-Basha and Irene Latham, illustrated by Yuko Shinizu (9781984813787)
Alaa lives in Aleppo, a city torn apart by war. He loves the city with its alleys, bazaars and caring people. When the war came, Alaa didn’t flee. Instead, he kept working as an ambulance driver on the rubble-filled streets of the city. Alaa misses his family and loved ones. The cats of the city, left behind by their owners, remind him of his family. Alaa begins to feed the cats, at first only a few but soon many start coming to be fed. Alaa must find a special place for the cats. Donations come from all over the world to help and soon Alaa has enough money to create a sanctuary for them. Alaa is then able to save more types of animals as the donations continue. He builds a playground for children and well for fresh water. Through his big and aching heart, Alaa is able to share hope and sustenance with the cats and people of Aleppo.
This nonfiction picture book tells such a powerful story of resilience and how one person’s actions can impact an entire community. The text focuses on Alaa’s love for Aleppo but also on his big heart and willingness to give his own small amount of money to care for the cats of the city. Readers will celebrate his victories with him on the pages, marveling at how one person could help so many.
Shinizu’s illustrations capture the city of Aleppo both before the war and afterwards. The finely detailed illustrations show bustling bazaars and then the torn and vacant streets. The cats are beautifully drawn, each one has a character of their own, even in a crowded scene.
An important book about war, hope and resilience. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by G. P. Putnam’s Sons.