Do You Have a Cat? by Eileen Spinelli (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers; $16.00; 32 pages)
“A cat who likes to caterwaul is better than no cat at all!”
There’s an old saying that dogs and their owners begin to look like each other. Well, I may be just a kitten but even I know that’s not true just for dogs… And this book, Do You Have a Cat?, proves me to be right. This book shows us – and especially the young humans in the reading audience – that 14 very famous people owned felines (that’s a cat, to you). And, guess what? These famous people looked just like their cats and vice-versa!
If you don’t believe me, just look at the swell drawings in this book. You’ll see that everyone from Cleopatra to Queen Victoria and Charles Lindbergh and Albert Schweitzer and President Calvin Coolidge owned very special cats, all of whom just happened to be the spitting-image of their home owners! And you’ll learn some very cool stuff, too, like the fact that President Coolidge went on the radio to tell the folks when his cat was lost. Luckily, for Cal, Tiger was soon found and returned to the White House!
So, I’m a young cat but I know good books. This one’s as good as a bowl of half-and-half!
Sasha (the kitten) Arellano
A review copy was provided by the publisher. Geraldo Valerio is the illustrator of this children’s book, recommended for ages 4 through 8.
Woof: A Love Story by Sarah Weeks; Illustrated by Holly Berry (HarperCollins, $16.99, 32 pages). Age range: 4 to 8.
A dog is a dog/ and a cat is a cat/ And most of the time/ it’s as simple as that/ Or is it?
Young children’s literature is alive and well! The dynamic duo of author Sarah Weeks and illustrator Holly Berry have teamed up to create a colorful, delightful and endearing picture book. Woof is the story of a dog who, at first glance, becomes smitten with a lovely white kitty. His tale is set forth in rhyming verses guaranteed to delight both the listener and the reader. The illustrations are created using an imaginative combination of original woodcuts and photographic images. The effect is just eye-catching enough to enliven the story without being jarring.
Woof is big enough for the reader to hold it while allowing the listener to easily turn the pages. Although the story line is a bit improbable (it involves a buried trombone ), it sets the stage for a dialogue about ways of communicating that can take place between the person reading the book and his or her young listener. Clearly, woof and meow are not the only way for the two characters to share their feelings. Music is the key to their understanding of each other.
Delightful – 5 Woofs (or Meows). Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Ruta Arellano. Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review. “This humorous and heartfelt story is about the power of love and the power of music, told through the eyes of a lovelorn dog and the cat he adores.” HarperCollins
A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans by W. Bruce Cameron (Tor Forge; $22.00; 320 pages)
“And the people who hide themselves/ Behind a wall of illusion/ Never Glimpse the truth/ Then it’s far too late/ When they pass away.” George Harrison (“Within You Without You”)
A Dog’s Purpose is a 320-page novel targeted for adults. This is a story of a dog named Toby who dies and is reborn as Bailey, then becomes the female Ellie and finally Buddy. It is a novel on the subject of reincarnation that will not convince anyone that it actually happens, but it’s told in a charming voice. The dog’s voice, no matter which of the four dogs is being portrayed (and regardless of age) is that of a non-threatening and generally naive pup which is why children will identify with it.
Had this been truly written for adults, it would have been better structured as a novella. It goes on too long to make the rather simple point that love between humans and their pets is always reciprocated. Any child who has loved stories like My Dog Spot will likely be enchanted with this one, but the adult reading it to a child is best advised to break it into 40 or so digestible bites.
Any they lived happily ever after, and were reborn again and again and again. Woof!
Take Away: This novel, sold as a childlike story for adults, is actually a long children’s story that might be read to children by adults. There are, however, dozens and dozens of great children’s books currently available, any one of which might be a better choice.
This review was written by Joseph Arellano. A review copy was provided by the publisher.
Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind by Phillip Done (Center Street, $22.99, 336 pages)
Phillip Done (rhymes with phone) is a veteran third-grade teacher with 25 years of experience in the classroom. Done charms the reader with his take on “teacherhood,” a word he has coined. He uses the school year, beginning with August, to frame relevant vignettes featuring classroom activities from the teacher’s perspective.
In this book he keeps it real, uncomplicated and genuinely funny. His breezy, fast-paced style draws the reader into a world that is full of energy, wonder and discovery. Third graders are quick to seize the moment and tell jokes and riddles. Done willingly goes along feigning surprise and breaking up with laughter even though he’s heard the jokes over and over again.
Some of the most innocent statements by the children are hilarious, such as this after school exchange when a teacher on duty with Done calls out, “Mindy, aren’t you a bus rider?” “No,” she shouts back, “I’m a street-walker.”
All is not fun and games as the author deftly proves he can get the reader to laugh and cry at the same time. Recommended.
This review was written by Ruta Arellano and is reprinted courtesy of San Francisco Book Review. Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind is the follow-up to Phillip Done’s first book, 32 Third-Graders and One Class Bunny.