Elem. – Adventures in Fosterland (Series Fiction)

Shaw, Hannah. Adventures in Fosterland. Aladdin, 2022. $17.99 ea. $44.95 set of 3. Grades 1-3.

Super Spinach. 978-665-90125-3.
Emmett and Jez. 978-1-665-90119-2.
Baby Badger. 978-1-665-92555-6. (Expected in February 2023)

Adventures in Fosterland is a new series written by Hannah Shaw, who is involved with kitten rescue. Each volume is inspired by an actual animal rescue story. Emmett and Jez tells the story of a tiny piglet named Emmett who falls off a truck and is wandering on the side of the road when he is rescued and taken to “Fosterland.” Fosterland the home of a nice lady who fosters animals until they are adopted. There, Emmett soon becomes fast friends with Jez, a kitten who is healing after surgery to remove an injured leg. As time passes, Emmett realizes that he and Jez are different in many ways from one another, and this means they might go in separate directions once they leave Fosterland. Will they find their forever homes? In Super Spinach, readers are introduced to Spinach, a kitten at an animal shelter. Spinach needs to have surgery on her ribs and is quite scared. An older cat tells her she will have to have superpowers to recover from the surgery. So when Spinach wakes up wearing a hard chest plate that will protect her while she recovers, she decides she must be a superhero with armor! Sent to Fosterland to recover, Spinach teams up with Chickpea, another kitten in Fosterland, and they soon are gaining confidence and taking on challenges they never would have dreamed of previously. When it’s time for Spinach’s chest plate to come off, she is worried that it means the end of her superpowers. But she soon discovers that you don’t need armor or a costume to be brave. 

THOUGHTS: Hand this series to fans of animal stories, particularly cat lovers (each book in the series thus far features a kitten as one of the protagonists). Readers will enjoy these stories of friendship and will also learn important lessons about kindness and bravery. Each title contains a closing chapter where Shaw shares the real stories of the animals who inspired the series and the back cover features photos of the real Emmett, Jez, Spinach, and Chickpea. Recommended.

Animals          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Captain Cat Goes to Mars

Virjan, Emma J. Captain Cat Goes to Mars. Simon Spotlight, 2022. 978-5-344-9574-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-1. 

Captain Cat (last seen in Captain Cat and the Pirate Lunch) is back for a new adventure. This time he is working with Pilot Matt (a dog) to build a spaceship with the goal of traveling to Mars. When their ship is built, they put on their spacesuits and blast off, heading straight for the Red Planet. After landing, they encounter Zoof, Zeff, and Zatt, three green aliens who reside on the planet. Together, they explore the planet, make angels in the dust of Mars, and explore craters and more. When a storm moves in, the spaceship is damaged when it is blown over. Will Cat and Matt become permanently stranded? Perhaps with some help from their new friends, they will be able to find a way home.

THOUGHTS: Part of the Ready to Read series, this volume is designed for beginning readers. The text features simple words in rhyming couplets written in large font. The title is sure to hold appeal for early readers, especially those who enjoy humor, animals, and/or aliens. Recommended for libraries serving primary age students.

Picture Book          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Mina

Forsythe, Matthew. Mina. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022. Unpaged. 978-1-481-48041-3. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Mina is a young mouse who loves solitary pursuits like reading and drawing. She and her father live in a comfortable mouse hole in a “piece of wood.” He likes to surprise her by bringing home guests, which causes Mina some anxiety. After all, the last visitors were stick insects who stole all her books. This time her dad brings home an unusual looking squirrel, and his daughter has her own idea about the identity of the animal. He tells her not to worry, but does become concerned when the creature stops eating. His solution is to bring home two more “squirrels” to keep it company. When this does not help, they call the doctor who quickly figures out that the problem is that “…these squirrels are definitely cats.” This diagnosis leads to panic and a chase. Will the assistance from a surprising source be enough to allow the trio to survive? The author also has created the whimsical drawings done in watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil. Mina is simply adorable, and the illustrations are a joy to see. 

THOUGHTS: Children will enjoy this story, which is a perfect read aloud. There surely will be a lot of laughs and a chorus of “Oh, no’s” as young readers listen to this tale of a smart little mouse and her hapless father. Elementary librarians will not want to miss this one.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Elem. – Negative Cat

Blackall, Sophie. Negative Cat. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2021. 978-0-399-25719-3. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

After 427 days of asking, a young boy’s family finally agrees to let him adopt a cat. Part of the deal is that he has to feed it, clean up after it, keep his room neat, write to his grandmother, and read for 20 minutes every day. The boy admits he isn’t such a great reader, but he agrees to the conditions before his parents change their minds. He picks out the perfect cat at the rescue shelter, renaming his new pet Max. He’s excited to show Max his new bed, toys, and treats, but Max seems unimpressed. He also doesn’t show any reaction to being tickled, listening to jokes, or seeing his scratching post. Instead, Max stares at the wall, puts his tail in the butter, and leaves hairballs on the rug. The boy’s sister labels Max a negative cat, and his parents call the shelter to have a conversation. It’s only when the boy begins his dreaded task of reading – sounding out words slowly while reading them aloud – that Max begins to show some affection and form a bond with his new owner. An Author’s Note at the end of the book credits the Animal Rescue League of Berks County, Pennsylvania for inspiring the book’s ending. Blackall describes how she read an article about the Rescue League’s Book Buddies program which encourages children to practice their fluency by reading out loud to cats. 

THOUGHTS: Readers will enjoy Blackall’s spirited digital artwork, particularly the emotions displayed by Max the cat and the rest of the family members. Share this title with animal lovers and reluctant readers who may just need a little feline inspiration to jump-start their own reading. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – Captain Cat and the Pirate Lunch

Virjan, Emma J. Captain Cat and the Pirate Lunch. Simon Spotlight, 2021. 978-1-534-49571-5. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-1. 

When three yellow birds land on a ship, they soon learn that it is a pirate ship captained by a cat in this short story told in rhyming verse. Two of the birds fly into the cabin with the cat. When the third bird looks in through a window, he sees the cat getting ready to cook lunch while the two birds sit and watch. Could his friends be on the menu? Worried, the third bird recruits a whale to help him rescue his friends. An end of story twist reveals that the bird has made some incorrect assumptions and misunderstood the cat’s intentions. Ultimately, a new friendship is formed between all the animals. 

THOUGHTS: This delightful story is an excellent choice for beginning readers and would also be a good selection for shared reading or read alouds. Though the story is short and the text simple, the author is able to incorporate a lesson about friendship that readers (and educators) will appreciate.

Picture Book                 Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Katie the Catsitter

Venable, Colleen A.F. Katie the Catsitter. Random House, 2021. 978-1-984-89563-9. 229 pg. $20.99. Grades 3-5.

Katie is not looking forward to this summer because all of her friends are going away to summer camps. Katie needs to figure out a way to make some money, so she can go to a summer camp. Katie ends up cat-sitting for her upstairs neighbor, who has 217 (yes, you read that right) cats! However, these are not normal cats, and Katie doesn’t think that her neighbor is normal. Will Katie be able to handle all these cats, figure out how to keep her friends, and perhaps solve the city’s mystery? The answer to all those questions might surprise you.

THOUGHTS: This is an extremely fun graphic novel for readers who love the Warriors series. The plot is super fun and ends up going places the reader does not see coming. Highly recommend this book!

Graphic Novel        Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Elem. – Inside Cat

Wenzel, Brendan. Inside Cat. Chronicle Books, 2021. 978-1-452-17319-1. 36 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Inside Cat spends its days peering through many different kinds of windows in its house. Each window is a different size or shape and presents a different view of the city. Inside Cat takes in scenes of everything from flowers to birds, towers to balloons. It sees big machines, small mice, bright traffic lights, and dark nighttime skies. The cat also uses its wild imagination to fill in gaps about what it’s seeing and to help make sense of the world. Since it spends so much time looking through windows, Inside Cat assumes it’s an expert about the world. But, when an outside door is left open, Inside Cat forms entirely new ideas. Brief, rhyming text winds its way across each double-page spread as Inside Cat moves from window to window, constantly seeing the world from different perspectives. The illustrations, composed from a variety of media including cut paper, colored pencil, oil pastels, marker, and the computer, are the true stars of the story. Careful readers will notice new details each time the story is shared. In particular, they will enjoy searching for the mice and watching what antics they are up to on each spread. 

THOUGHTS: Use this text during creative writing activities to spark ideas about seeing the world from different perspectives and using your imagination. 

Picture Book. Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Pet stories. Perspective fiction. Stories in rhyme. 

Elem. – See the Dog: Three Stories About a Cat

LaRochelle, David. See the Dog: Three Stories About a Cat. Candlewick Press, 2021. 978-1-536-21629-5. Unpaged. $8.99. Grades K-2.

This companion to 2021 Theodor Geisel Award winner See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog is a must for every elementary school library. Beginning readers will love both titles by David LaRochelle. See the Dog brings back Dog and Cat, two animals unafraid to interact with readers and foil the author’s storylines. The first story opens with “See the dog,” and Cat saying, “Hello! The dog is sick today. He asked me to take his place!” Three stories follow a similar pattern and readers will giggle at every twist and turn.

THOUGHTS: Another excellent beginning reader from the team of LaRochelle and Wohnoutka. 

Picture Book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Elem. – SumoKitty

Biedrzycki, David. SumoKitty. Charlesbridge, 2021. 978-1-580-89683-5. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-3. 

Once a thin, stray cat, SumoKitty only earns that name after much hard work and good food. He loves spending time at the heya (training center) where he earns his keep chasing mice away. Kuma, one of the rikishi (wrestlers) is afraid of mice and the stray cat keeps the heya pest-free; he’s rewarded with many bowls of chankonabe (stew). One day, he realizes that he has grown quite large from so much chankonabe, and the mice have quickly reclaimed their territory. The cat is kicked out of the heya by it’s manager and works to regain his place inside by studying Kuma’s training and techniques. Kuma is training especially hard for an upcoming match against the yokozuna (champion). He witnesses the cat using it’s best sumo moves to dominate the mice and gives SumoKitty his name and place inside the heya. In Kuma’s own match, he achieves success by remembering SumoKitty’s perseverance when battling the mice. David Biedrzycki uses a subtle panel-on-picture style to tell the story; his illustrations, done in pencil, watercolor, and digital kitchen sink, pair nicely with the story.

THOUGHTS: Funny and heartwarming, SumoKitty and his friends at the heya show readers the importance of hard work. 

Picture Book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Elem. – Cat Problems

John, Jory. Cat Problems. Random House Studio, 2021. 978-0-593-30213-2. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-2.

Told from the cat’s perspective, this hilarious story chronicles a day in the life of a house cat. This particular cat has a lot of complaints about his living situation: another cat is lying in his spot, he doesn’t have any food in his dish, he wants to go outside, and a noisy monster (the vacuum) is chasing him. The list of grievances goes on. Through the window, a squirrel scolds him for being so ungrateful. This doesn’t phase the cat, however, and he continues through his day with his amusing, authentic commentary on his surroundings. Despite his attitude, readers will fall in love with the protagonist, who is so unapologetically himself that it’s comical.

THOUGHTS: Fans of Penguin Problems (2016) and Giraffe Problems (2018) will love this hilarious new addition to the Animal Problems series. Cat lovers will also find this book endearing. Have children compare and contrast the feline protagonist with their own pets at home, or have them write a story from their pet’s perspective.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member