Itty-Bitty Kitty Corn by Shannon Hale

Itty-Bitty Kitty Corn by Shannon Hale, illustrated by Leuyen Pham (9781419750915)

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.

Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams.

Katie the Catsitter by Colleen AF Venable

Cover image

Katie the Catsitter by Colleen AF Venable, illustrated by Stephanie Yue (9780593306321)

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.

See the Cat by David LaRochelle

See the Cat cover image

See the Cat: Three Stories about a Dog by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka (9781536204278)

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.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Candlewick.

The Little Kitten by Nicola Killen

The Little Kitten by Nicola Killen

The Little Kitten by Nicola Killen (9781534466968)

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

Cat Dog Dog by Nelly Buchet

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.

Two Dogs on a Trike by Gabi Snyder

Two Dogs on a Trike by Gabi Snyder

Two Dogs on a Trike by Gabi Snyder, illustrated by Robin Rosenthal (9781419738913)

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.

Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams Appleseed.

The Cat Man of Aleppo by Karim Shamsi-Basha and Irene Latham

The Cat Man of Aleppo by Karim Shamsi-Basha

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.

Welcoming Elijah by Leslea Newman

Welcoming Elijah by Leslea Newman

Welcoming Elijah by Leslea Newman, illustrated by Susan Gal (9781580898829)

In a warm, brightly lit home, a Seder is about to start. Outside sits a lonely kitten, looking at the festivities through the window. Guests arrive to the Seder and it begins lit by candles that glow out into the dark night where the kitten sits. The boy washes his hands, dips parsley into salt water, breaks matzo, and listens to the tale of the Israelites leaving Egypt. Outside, the kitten washes his paws, eats a wet blade of grass, drinks from a puddle, and waits. Songs are sung inside and the kitten mewls outdoors. Finally, the door is opened for the prophet Elijah to enter, bringing peace. When the boy opens the door, there is the white kitten who found a home and a name, Elijah.

Newman’s text moves back and forth between the Seder and the darkness outside, cleverly tying the two together in small moments that echo one another. The beauty and solemnity of the Seder works in harmony with the beauty of the night outside and yet contrasts against it as well with the lone kitten and the house full of people. The text is simple and graceful, completed by an Author’s Note that offers more details about Passover, Seders and Ellijah.

The illustrations are done in ink, charcoal and digital collage. They use warm yellows for the indoor Seder and blues and blacks for the night outside. Readers will glimpse the indoor scenes from the kitten’s perspective as well as the darkness outside from inside the home. That connection is maintained throughout the book.

A lovely Passover book with whiskers. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Charlesbridge.

Review: Cats Are a Liquid by Rebecca Donnelly

Cats Are a Liquid by Rebecca Donnelly.jpg

Cats Are a Liquid by Rebecca Donnelly, illustrated by Misa Saburi (9781250206596)

Based on a scientific paper, this picture book shows the various ways that cats act like both liquids and solids throughout their day. They go limp and drip when picked up. They flow downhill. They fill any container they are placed in, whether boxes or beakers. They flop and drop to the floor. But they also can shred and tear at times, and go stiff when they see a tempting feather float by. Told in simple language that gets readers seeing cats as watery creatures, this picture book celebrates everything feline. 

The lines of text in this book are short with lots of rhyming that avoids becoming sing-songy by playing with internal rhymes too. There is a wonderful jauntiness to the tone of the book, wondering aloud at what cats truly are and how different they are from other forms of matter. I firmly believe that cats are fluids, but non-newtonian ones. The book ends with information on forms of matter as well as a recipe for oobleck. 

The art here is simple and accessible, almost in the style of popular cat collection apps for cell phones. The cats are varied and marvelous in their liquid and solid states, whether mesmerized by snowfall or avoiding a bath. 

A clever scientific look at the splendor of cats. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.