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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Barder, Gemma. Be a Pet Expert (series of 6). Crabtree, 2021. 32 p. $20.75 each. $124.50 Set of 6. Grades 3-6.
Be a Cat Expert. 978-0-778-78015-1. Be A Dog Expert. 978-0-778-78016-8. Be a Hamster & Guinea Pig Expert. 978-0-778-78017-5. Be a Horse & Pony Expert. 978-0-778-78018-2. Be a Rabbit Expert. 978-0-778-78019-9. Be a Reptile Expert. 978-0-778-78020-5.
These books provide helpful information, facts, and pet care tips for a variety of animals. Many photos, text boxes, and checklists help readers to learn more about the animals and consider them as pets. A flowchart guides readers through yes/no questions to determine what type best suits their personalities. Placing hamsters and guinea pigs in the same book will help readers to differentiate the two. Each book surprises readers with some interesting facts even on ‘well-known’ pets. For instance, no two dogs have the same noseprint; cats cannot taste sweet foods; horses and ponies have the largest eyes of any mammals on land; and rabbits can sleep with their eyes open.
THOUGHTS: These helpful books shed a positive yet truthful light on pets, which will appeal to pet-owners and animal lovers alike.
630s Domesticated Animals, Pets Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD
One day, Jeremy woke up… and there was the cone. It was on him after he woke up at the vet. Jeremy suddenly wasn’t Jeremy anymore… he was a cone cat. Everything seemed different and more difficult. Jeremy couldn’t do what he had always done before, and that was very hard. Until magic things started happening with his cone and Jeremy figured out how to get delicious treats and items with his cone. Hopefully this cone will stay!
THOUGHTS: This book had me giggling right from the start! Readers may be able to relate if they have a pet cat or dog who has worn a cone before. A fun read for younger students!
Statts, Leo. Cats. Abdo, 2020. $18.95 ea. $113.70 set of 6. 24 p. Grades K-2.
Burmilla Cats. 978-1-5321-2709-0. Maine Coon Cats. 978-1-5321-2710-6. Manx Cats. 978-1-5321-2711-3. Persian Cats. 978-1-5321-2712-0. Scottish Fold Cats. 978-1-5321-2713-7. Siamese Cats. 978-1-5321-2714-4.
The Cat series is designed to introduce primary-aged students to six types of cats. Each title explores the unique characteristics of the breed, including information on the cat’s body, care, personality, and history of the breed. Back matter includes some quick stats on the breed, a glossary and links to online resources. The text is accompanied by numerous engaging photos that illustrate characteristics of the breed as well as photos of cats at rest and at play.
THOUGHTS: This series is guaranteed to be a hit with fans of felines! Young readers are sure to enjoy the high-quality photos and the text, while simple, is highly informative. The series contains a nice mix of familiar (Siamese) and less-familiar (Burmilla) cats. Libraries serving primary students looking to refresh or expand their cat non-fiction collections should certainly consider this series for purchase.
Mendez, Yamile Said. Random Acts of Kittens. Scholastic, 2020. 978-1-338-57492-0. 258 p. $6.99. Grades 4-6.
Natalia finds a young cat who has just given birth to kittens in her family’s storage shed. She knows she can’t leave the cats in the freezing cold storage shed, so she brings them in the house when her abuela, mother, and sister are out. After getting them checked out by a vet, Natalia convinces her mom to let her foster the cats until the kittens are old enough to adopt. Natalia has been struggling with several issues in her life–her father has been deployed overseas, she’s gotten into some trouble at school and she’s had a falling out with one of her best friends. Maybe working with the kittens will be the positive and purposeful experience she needs at this moment in her life. Working with her friend Reuben, she sets up a social media account for the kittens in the hopes that some of her classmates will apply to adopt a kitten and give them a fur-ever home. Natalia soon discovers, however, that serving as a kitten matchmaker is a little more complicated than she first thought.
THOUGHTS: Hand this title to middle grade fans of animal stories. Readers will appreciate the details about fostering and caring for young kittens. Natalia’s experiences with friend and school drama will also ring true with many readers.