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.
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.
Bodega Cat by Louie Chin (9781576879320)
Explore the life of a New York City bodega cat in this picture book. Chip is the cat who lives in the Matos family’s bodega. He keeps an eye on everything from the breakfast rush, where he knows everyone’s orders, to the stock on the shelves, that he loves to hide and sleep in. He helps with deliveries too. In the evening when Damian comes home, they play superheroes together, dashing through the neighborhood along with the cat from the grocery store across the street. Dinnertime comes with a Dominican meal shared with neighbors and friends. The bodega never closes, so Chip’s job never ends!
Chin, a native New Yorker, pays homage to his city through the lens of the importance of bodegas and small grocery stores in neighborhoods throughout the city. He cleverly uses the iconic bodega cat as the perspective from which to view the store. Chip is a delight of a character, offering pride, a knowledge of his neighborhood, and a dedication to the people they serve.
The illustrations are done in a comic-book style that works particularly well. They are bright, busy and filled with the bustle of a store. Chip himself hides around the store, offers help, and is in the midst of everything.
A great book about a vital part of New York City. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Ghost Cat by Kevan Atteberry (9780823442836)
A little boy thinks that he sees a ghost cat out of the corner of his eye. It reminds him of the cat he used to have but the boy can never get a good look at this ghost cat. The ghost cat seems to sleep on his bed at night, curled up and purring. It plays with cat toys on the stairs. It meows outside of the boy’s door and knocks things off of shelves. But the boy is always too late to see anything more than a blur moving quickly. Then one day, the boy really sees the ghost cat clearly. He chases after it and the cat leads him to something new and very special right outside.
Atteberry tells a wonderfully gentle story here about the loss of a pet and the gap that it leaves. It is also a great ghost story with no scariness at all, just a playful cat ghost doing cat-like things all over the house. The tone is delightfully breathless and wondering, just right for a ghost story. The dashing nature of the bulk of the book slows at the end to allow readers to bask in the new discovery.
The illustrations, done digitally, are filled with warm tones that allow the ghostly form of the cat to really pop. Readers will enjoy seeing the cat fleetingly on the page, moving just away from the boy and the reader.
Comforting and understanding, this book takes ghosts and grief and turns them into something very special. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Neal Porter Books.
Another by Christian Robinson (9781534421677)
In his first solo picture book, award-winning illustrator Robinson creates a wordless experience for young book lovers. A little girl is in bed with her cat sleeping at her feet, when a portal opens in the wall. Through the portal comes a cat who is just the same as her cat except that it wears a blue collar rather than a red one. The portal cat steals the girl’s cat’s red mouse toy and heads back through the portal with it. What ensues is a literal cat and mouse game through a series of portals that lead to Escher-like rooms, reversal of gravity, and much more. Finally, the girl meets another version of herself and retrieves the red mouse, returning home. The adventure is over, or is it?
Cleverly designed, this wordless picture book is a joy to experience. Readers will love figuring out that gravity is different, or that stairs don’t actually look like stairs, or that there are other worlds out there much like our own. The use of portals adds a delightful science-fiction quality to the book too. As always, Robinson’s illustrations are exceptional. His use of repeating polka dots is used on the end-pages and under the book jacket as well as throughout the story. From the girl’s hair to entire landscapes of dots, the book is a cohesive whole even as it journeys through other worlds.
An exceptional picture book made all the more impressive by being wordless. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
How to Give Your Cat a Bath by Nicola Winstanley, illustrated by John Martz (9780735263543)
A simple five-step guide to giving your cat a bath becomes a romp of a picture book. Just filling the tub with the right amount of water is a challenge. First too much, then too little. Then the cat disappears. Maybe it’s time for a milk and cookie break? The girl returns to the bathroom with her cat, but now the water is cold. The cat escapes again. She chases after forgetting to turn off the water which creates a flood. Once the water is mopped up, it’s time to start again. Or perhaps there’s a simpler solution?
The flat voice of a guide book adds so much to the humor here. The timing is also exceptionally done with the design of the page turns adding a touch of suspense to the fun. The entire book is lighthearted and played for laughs. The art is done in simple lines which emphasizes the chaos that eventually occurs on the page. The messes accumulate, moving into new rooms.
A complete giggle-fest of a book particularly for families who love cats. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
There Are No Bears in This Bakery by Julia Sarcone-Roach (9780399556661)
The author of The Bear Ate Your Sandwich has returned with a second book about a hungry bear (or two.) Muffin is a bakery cat who solves cases when night falls. He knows all of the night sounds until one night when he hears a “grrrrrrrr” noise. At first he can’t locate the noise, but when he returns to the bakery he discovers the largest mouse he has ever seen! Or perhaps it’s the smallest bear. The sound is coming from the little bear’s stomach. Muffin knows just what to do to solve the problem: he feeds the little bear the bakery treats. Then a second bear shows up, much larger than the first. Could Muffin be in a bear-load of trouble?
Sarcone-Roach writes with exceptional tone and turns of phrase in this picture book. She uses bakery metaphors such as “I slipped into the darkness like icing melting down a hot cake.” The metaphors continue when Muffin meets the bears, giving readers a sense of what they smell like, sound like and even feel like. The story here is clever with a cat whose job might be to solve issues but most likely not by feeding wild creatures.
The art is full of colors with yellows and blues playing against deeper blacks in the shadows. Muffin pops with his orange coat against these colors. There is a playfulness in the illustrations that is particularly effective even with their dark colors and nighttime vibe.
A perfect combination of cat and bears that will leave readers craving sprinkles. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Knopf.
Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks (9781368008440)
Living on Wilnick, an outdated and aging space station at the end of the galaxy could be dull, but not for best friends Sanity and Tallulah. Sanity, who has always wanted a pet despite rules against having one, decides to create one herself. It turns out to be a very cute three-headed kitten with a taste for meat. The kitten manages to escape soon after Tallulah’s mother finds out that she exists. The girls set out to find out whether the problems that are happening across the space station are the fault of one cute kitten or maybe it’s something else. Meanwhile, there seems to be a very large monster on the loose and the coolant tank appears to have been drunk dry. As disaster looms aboard the space station, it’s up to Sanity to save the day thanks to the technology she explored when creating her illegal pet.
Brooks sets exactly the right tone in this graphic novel. The girls best friends who tend to talk one another into getting into even more trouble while trying to fix what they have already done. Add in a three-headed kitten and mayhem follows. The two girls could not be more different, which makes for an odd-couple chemistry between them. The story is fast paced and a delightful mix of STEM and girl power.
The art in the book is done in a limited color palette with pinks and deep blues. The art brings to life the space station and its size, conveying the hazards of keeping it functional while giving the girls a lot of space to run into trouble. The cast of characters is wonderfully diverse and that extends to all of the people who live aboard the space station.
A strong graphic novel with plenty of appeal. Appropriate for ages 9-12
Reviewed from library copy.
Up the Mountain Path by Marianne Dubuc (9781616897239)
Every Sunday, Mrs. Badger walks to the mountain peak. Along the way, she greets her various animal friends and finds gifts to give others later. She helps anyone who needs it too. When a young cat asks to share Mrs. Badger’s snack, she invites the cat along to the mountaintop. They need to find the little cat her own walking stick and take breaks along the way, but the two eventually make it to the peak. They enjoy one another’s company and the trip so much that they continue to make the trek together again and again. Eventually, Mrs. Badger grows older and has to be the one taking breaks and finally she can’t make the trip any longer. The cat continues to make the walk, finding her own young animal to mentor on the way.
This gentle picture book has such depth to it. Mrs. Badger is a fabulous character, exhibiting deep kindness and thoughtfulness for others. She knows everyone she encounters on the walk and makes connections easily. She demonstrates how to make and keep friends with all of her actions. This becomes even more clear as she walks with the young cat, teaching them how to make the long climb to the peak. The book can be read as a metaphor for life but children can also simply enjoy the story of the friendly badger and a young cat who become friends.
Dubuc’s illustrations move from full pages of images to smaller unframed pictures that offer a varied feel throughout the book. She makes sure to have a special feeling when the characters make it to the mountaintop. The vista is striking but it is the journey itself that makes the book sing.
A quiet book about connections and community. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from library copy.