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. – The Longest Letsgoboy

Wilder, Derick. The Longest Letsgoboy. Chronicle Books. 978-1-452-17716-8. 32 p. $16.99. Grades K-3. 

This is the story of one old dog’s final walk with the child he refers to as his “foreverfriend.” The dog’s playful first-person narration allows readers to experience the world through his eyes and through his made-up language. On the last day of his life, he and a young girl take a long walk through an autumn woods. The dog smells familiar scents and sees the same animals and trees he’s seen many times before, but on this walk, he moves slowly and feels tired. With his one good ear, he listens carefully to bird calls, telling him they will keep an eye on his “foreverfriend.” Later that evening, as shadows stretch across the yard, the dog circles and settles one final time. Although this is one of the most emotional sections of the book, Catia Chien’s masterful abstract illustrations lighten the tone and communicate what is happening to the dog in an age-appropriate way. The beautiful pages show the dog passing peacefully into a sky filled with bright colors, and it’s clear he feels no pain. Throughout the book, the colors in the mixed media illustrations morph to deftly match the emotions being expressed throughout the seasons of the year and the seasons of life. 

THOUGHTS: While this is clearly a story about loss, it’s also a story about love. The special bond between the girl and her dog is beautifully portrayed, and both the text and the illustrations will strike a chord with any reader who has experienced the loss of a pet. Share this title with guidance counselors to begin conversations with students who may be grieving their own loss. 

Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

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. – Perdu

Jones, Richard. Perdu. Peachtree Atlanta. 978-1-682-63248-2. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Perdu, a small black and brown dog with a red scarf, is all alone in the world. He trudges through grassy fields, feeling the howling wind in his fur. He eventually comes to a city and he begins exploring, his claws making tiny clicking sounds on the pavement. But everyone in the city seems to have somewhere to go or someone to meet, and Perdu feels more alone than ever. He spends the day searching for his place, but over and over again, he comes up empty. Careful readers will notice a small girl in a red knit hat. She spots Perdu wandering the city streets throughout the day. After a mishap at a cafe, she is the only one to show Perdu compassion, returning the red scarf he loses in the commotion and confusion. Painted illustrations effectively capture Perdu’s loneliness as well as the hustle and bustle of his surroundings. 

THOUGHTS: Readers will be empathetic to Perdu’s feelings of being overwhelmed, scared, and lonely as he searches for his place in the world. They will also enjoy watching the young girl as she follows Perdu from a distance, always keeping an eye on what he’s doing. This title can spark conversations about friendship, kindness, and finding one’s place in the world. 

Picture Book. Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – This Old Dog

Brockenbrough, Martha. This Old Dog. Levine Querido, 2020. $17.99. Unpaged. Grades K-2. 

Old dog is happy to see another day though his old knees hurt and his old back aches. “The speed of life since the girl was born is fast fast fast, and old dog likes to take things slow.” While the story explains that he wants plenty of time to find a just-right rock or smell each blade of grass, the illustrations show that old dog just doesn’t get that time anymore because “…the rest of the world has lots to do.” Old dog wishes for a friend who wants to take their time on walks and savor the delights of nature. Much to his delight, his family’s daughter starts to walk and toddles directly to him! Suddenly, old dog and his girl are inseparable and enjoy plenty of time together smelling the grass, finding those just-right rocks, and walking together through the world.

THOUGHTS: As a parent with two old dogs and two small kids, this book really tugged at my heartstrings. A sweet story for any dog lover.

Picture Book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD