Frankie Works the Night Shift by Lisa Westberg Peters

It’s late, and the hardware store is closed for the night. Except for one… Frankie, the cat. At first, Frankie “does chores”, usually making more of a mess than he helps. Then Frankie spots an intruder – a mouse – and his real work begins!

So the story line isn’t scintillating. It’s funny enough for a kid. Better yet, the artwork is a mix of artwork and real-life photography, which my kids found very appealing. There’s a bit of counting 1-to-10, but it’s not integral to the text. All in all, a fun little story, one the kids asked for several times over the course of the week, but not exceptional.

Oh, and the intruder mouse? Safely chased out the back door. Nobody gets eaten in this story, for the sake of the tenderhearted.

Available on Amazon

Frankie Works the Night Shift by Lisa Westberg Peters, illustrated by Jennifer Taylor. Greenwillow Books, 2010.

Have You Got My Purr? by Judy West

Kitten wakes up one morning and discovers her purr is missing. Mama tells to just wait, her purr will show up soon. However, Kitten can’t just wait, and she goes out to see which of the animals on the farm might have taken her purr.

Then follows a rather predictable sequence of visiting all the farm animals, good for practicing animal sounds with your child. A pleasant surprise is when Kitten visits Mouse, because she has to be extra careful to show Mouse that she’s hunting for her purr, not her dinner.

By the end of the day, Kitten is worn out, foot sore, and still purr-less. Owl suggests she go home to her mama, and Kitten can’t believe that Mama might have had her purr all along! Alas, it’s not so, but a bit of motherly advice and some warm, tender mama love helps Kitten discover that her purr has been with her all along.

In my opinion, the sweet, tender ending elevates Have You Got My Purr? above the usual farmyard animal stories. It leaves a warm, snuggly feeling, making this book especially suited for bedtime.  A nice book to return to frequently.

Available on Amazon

Have You Got My Purr? by Judy West, illustrated by Tim Warnes. Little Tiger Press, 2000.

Bad Kitty Gets a Bath by Nick Bruel

Bad Kitty Gets a Bath has only one thing going for it – it’s hilarious. There’s nothing educational, beautiful, or uplifting about it, except the fact that it’s stuffed full of page after page of funny things that will have you and your kids laughing until you hurt.

The book is set up quite simply. The main text is a quasi-serious “How To Bathe A Cat” manual. The illustrations, asides, sidebars, and general notes tell you just what Kitty thinks of this idea.

Bad Kitty Gets a Bath is a bit longer – 144 pages – so it’s not a quick read. In fact, it might be a good introduction to chapter books for your child, as there’s not a real complex plot to keep track of between readings.

For ages, my 5-year-old got the most out of it, and the 3-year-old got some of the jokes. It’s all about how developed their sense of humor is; do they get irony, sarcasm, and the like?

Definitely a fun read.

Available on Amazon

Bad Kitty Gets a Bath by Nick Bruel. Square Fish, 2009.

Kitten’s Spring by Eugenie Fernandes

Kitten’s Spring is a wonderful book to just sit and enjoy with your littlest ones. The text isn’t scintillating – “Chicken clucks, chick scratches” says one page – but pleasantly charming. The artwork is what makes the book, though. Done in a 3-dimensional multi-media format, it’s attractive and engaging and just right for the 1-to-3 year old crowd.

Available on Amazon

Kitten’s Spring by Eugenie Fernandes. Kids Can Press, 2010.

Reading Warriors 2010 Challenge

If you have kids of an age to enjoy the Warriors series by Erin Hunter (at least 8 years old), this reading challenge looks to be fantastic. For a wonder, completing the challenge is more interesting than the prize!

Reading Warriors Challenge

If you’re not familiar with the Warriors, a fantasy series starring feral cats, let me suggest you check out the Wikipedia page.

The most common theme in the series is forbidden love. Another theme featured in the novel is the reactions of different faiths when meeting each other, which was inspired by the events of the September 11, 2001 attacks. To show this, the Tribe of Rushing Water was introduced in Moonrise. In an author chat, Holmes explained that the books never say that the Clans or the Tribe of Rushing Water are right about faith, because both are “equally valid.” This leads to fear and suspicion between them because they are afraid of things they do not understand. Holmes said that “ignorance is a very scary thing!” Non-belief is also featured in the storyline. Another theme shown in the books shows how characters can be a mix of good and evil. Holmes has said she is fascinated by these “shades of gray” in personalities. Her example of this was when Bluestar, a “lovely” cat, gave up her kits for her own ambitions. A third major theme, often referred to as nature versus nurture, relates to whether a person is born the way he or she will be, or if other things shape that, as in the example of Brambleclaw. This theme ties into the “shades of gray” theme. Other themes that have been pointed out include family, loss, honor, bravery and death, loyalty, and following rules.

Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes

Poor kitten!” is the refrain we all shout as we read this book, the story of a small kitten out on his first night-time prowl. He mistakes the full moon for a giant saucer of milk, and gets himself into all sorts of predicaments trying to get himself a treat. In the end, he trudges back home to find the best treat of all.

If you haven’t guessed, this is one our family’s favorites. It’s stuffed full of giggle-worthy moments, and gives a reader plenty of opportunity to dramatize. The illustrations are simply drawn, and in black-and-white, but well-executed to enhance the story. The text is a bit unusual in that it doesn’t rhyme, but it’s well metered and pleasant. It is not a leveled reader, but after a few read-throughs with a grownup, a young reader should be able to manage on his own. I’ve recently overheard my daughter read this book to her younger brother, and listening to them giggle together is a rare pleasure.

Kitten’s First Full Moon is a rare book – one that I can definitely recommend adding to your family’s personal collection. We’ve returned to it time and time again for at more than four years now, and it shows no sign of losing it’s appeal.

Available on Amazon

Kitten’s First Full Moon written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes. Greenwillow Books, 2004.

Mattoo, Let’s Play! by Irene Luxbacher

Advertised as a story of an energetic child who learns she must be calm if she wants to her cat play, Mattoo, Let’s Play! is a book I’ve been eagerly awaiting. It was the first book we read out of the library bag this week.

The story line is simple – a little girl, Ruby, loves her cat and wants to play with him, but for some reason Mattoo does not want to take rocket ship rides, play in a pots-and-pans band, or eat triple-decker jelly sandwiches. Ruby has just about given up hope, until her friend, Clemente, comes to visit one day. They imagine they are on a jungle safari, and they have to be quiet to see any jungle animals. In the end, Ruby’s thrilled to find the best jungle animal of all wants to come play – her very own Mattoo.

The illustrations in Mattoo, Let’s Play, are amazing. The pages of the jungle animals the children imagine are my favorite. They’re done in black and grey and white, and really give the impression of animals half-glimpsed through the gloom, while still being friendly and recognizable. This is artwork I’d enjoy hanging on my walls.

The text is well done, as well. There’s plenty of opportunity for dramatic reading. Try a hushed murmur for hiding in the jungle. My kids were sitting on the edge of the couch waiting to see what would happen next. The vocabulary shouldn’t be too difficult for a young reader, but since it’s not a leveled reader having a grownup nearby for a few hints would be helpful.

But does the message get across to children? I’m not so sure of that, at least on first reading. My three-year-old seemed not quite certain how “the fiercest, most wild, most wonderful creature of all – the mysterious spotted king of the jungle!” turned out to be a plain old housecat. We had to go back over a couple of pages to make sure he understood what had happened. and even then I’m not quite sure he gets why Mattoo is now willing to play (calm) games.

What Mattoo, Let’s Play! does provide is a great bit of role-modeling, and common reference point for kids and parents. It will be easy to prompt my kids to play gently by reminding them of Mattoo and Ruby, and that is usually more effective than simply telling them what to do. This is a book I’m going to want to keep on the bookshelf for a long time; the text is going to stand up to frequent repetition and the lesson will need refreshing from time to time.

Available on Amazon

Mattoo, Let’s Play! by Irene Luxbacher. Kids Can Press, 2010.