September 3 – It’s Happy Cat Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-black-cat-white-cat-cover

About the Holiday

A happy cat is a joy forever! Today, we celebrate those feline pets who give their owners so much happiness. To honor the holiday, why not give your kitty a special treat. It’s also a great day to make sure that your cat or kitten is current on all medical appointments to keep your pet healthy and happy!

Black Cat, White Cat

By Silvia Borando

 

“Ever since he was a kitten, Black Cat has been entirely black….from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail.” White cat is entirely white “from the tip of her nose to the tip of her tail.” Black Cat likes to roam during the day and watch the black swallows swoop through the sky. White Cat prefers nighttime when the twinkling stars gleam.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-black-cat-white-cat-dayt

Copyright Silvia Borando, courtesy of Candlewick Press

Black cat becomes curious about the night, though, and asks his friend Blackbird what he could see in the darkened sky. Blackbird doesn’t know because he is asleep in his nest during the night. Blackbird suggests that Black Cat go out when the sun goes down and “see what you can see.” At the same time White Cat wonders what the daytime holds. She asks her friend Snowy Owl, but Snowy Owl doesn’t know because she is always asleep by the time the sun comes up. Snowy Owl suggests White Cat go out during the day and “see what she can see.”

Copyright Silvia Borando, courtesy of Candlewick

Copyright Silvia Borando, courtesy of Candlewick Press

With good wishes from their friends, both Black Cat and White Cat head off on their new adventures, and somewhere between day and night, Black Cat meets White Cat. They tell each other where they are going and invite the other along with them. They agree, and so “White Cat takes Black Cat to discover the night.” Then Black Cat introduces White Cat to the day.

“The night is full of wonder. ‘Purr, purrrr, look at those glittery, fluttery fireflies,’” Black Cat says. “And the day is full of surprise. ‘Meow, look at those busy, buzzy bumblebees,’”  White Cat exclaims. Black Cat shows White Cat all of his favorite daytime things, such as “daisies, doves, and butterflies…” while White Cat dishes up the most delicious nighttime goodies—“snakes, bats, and mice.”

From then on Black Cat and White Cat are inseparable whether it’s daytime or nighttime. “So inseparable, in fact, that they have one, two, three, four, five, SIX… KITTENS! And can you guess what color they are? Orange!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-black-cat-white-cat-together

Copyright Silvia Borando, courtesy of Candlewick Press

In her adorable book that proves opposites really do attract, Silvia Borando presents two cute cats that live in only half the world until their curiosity and friendship broaden their horizons. Borando’s gentle, lyrical language elevates this concept book to include the ideas that treasures can be found outside one’s comfort zone and that mutual sharing of one’s life and favorite things leads to strong relationships–even magic and sometimes the seemingly impossible! The soft curves of the figures and stark white-on-black and black-on-white pages make for striking illustrations that will delight even the youngest child.  The final spread of the six orange kittens will delight little readers.

Wonderful for story time or bedtime, Black Cat, White Cat is a sweet addition to home libraries for young readers.

Ages birth – 5

Candlewick, 2015 | ISBN 978-0763681067

Whether it’s day or night, watch this Black Cat, White Cat book trailer!

Happy Cat Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-reivew-cat-coloring-page

 

Cute Cat and Kittens Coloring Page

 

Here is a happy cat and her new little kittens! Enjoy coloring this printable Cute Cat and Kittens Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

June 26 – It’s Adopt a Cat Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-white-cat-and-the-monk

About the Holiday

Just as it sounds, this holiday celebrates all the benefits of owning cat. With so many beautiful breeds of cat to choose from, there’s a perfect pet waiting for you! If you’ve been considering adding a cat or kitten to your family, why not visit an animal shelter and give one – or even two – cats a purr-fect home?

The White Cat and the Monk

Retold by Jo Ellen Bogart | Illustrated by Sydney Smith

 

In the nighttime a white cat approaches a monastery. He slips through a window and pads along a darkened corridor and down stone steps. He creeps behind a barrel, a vase, and a pitcher standing in a row and adds his shadow to the black mosaic on the floor. He leaps the last few steps and hurries along to the doorway that is leaking a bit of light.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-white-cat-and-the-monk-candle-light

Image copyright Sydney Smith, text copyright Jo Ellen Bogart. Courtesy of Groundwood Books.

He slips his paw under the door. This a secret signal alerts the occupant of the room, who opens the door to this playful feline. “I, monk and scholar, share my room with my white cat, Pangur,” the old man explains. He lifts Pangur into his arms and strokes him before releasing him to pursue his “special trade.” The monk also returns to his trade—studying ancient manuscripts to understand their meaning.

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celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-white-cat-and-the-monk-in-window

The  monk is a dedicated scholar, revealing, “Far more than any fame, I enjoy the peaceful pursuit of knowledge. I treasure the wealth to be found in my books.” Pangur is a dedicated scholar of another kind, studying “the hole that leads to the mouse’s home.” In that moment both man and cat become hunters—one for meaning and the other for prey.

The two do not disturb each other for each is content in his pursuit. Pangur at last “finds his mouse” as the monk finds “light in the darkness.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-white-cat-and-the-monk-in-window

Image copyright Sydney Smith, text copyright Jo Ellen Bogart. Courtesy of Groundwood Books.

Jo Ellen Bogart’s quiet and graceful retelling of Pangur Bán, a beloved Irish poem from the 9th century is a welcome respite in this age of multitasking and mega-activity. With sparse, but compelling and lyrical language, Bogart uncovers the companionable relationship between the monk and his cat as each follows their heart together.

The fine textured pages of Sydney Smith’s illustrations recall the beauty of parchment as the smooth gray-and-gold line drawings of the monastery’s architecture and characters give way to the vibrant colors of ancient manuscripts and the natural environment. The contentment and friendship of the monk and the cat are sweetly drawn in the characters’ mirrored actions as well as in the depictions of a long-held affection between man and beast in the panels of the manuscript the monk studies. As the monk states, “Ours is a happy tale.”

Reassuring and reaffirming, The White Cat and the Monk honors the individual challenges and quests that make us who we are and would be a wonderful addition to regular quiet-time reading.

Ages 4 and up (this book will be enjoyed by both children and adults)

Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1554987801

You’ll find a gallery of artwork by Sydney Smith on his tumblr!

Adopt a Cat Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cat-toy

Fishing for Playtime Cat Toy

 

Cats love to chase after bouncing, sliding objects, and they love fish. While this toy may not taste as good as fish, it sure smells better and doesn’t require worms or hooks to attain!

Supplies

  • Old or new child’s sock
  • Fiber Fill
  • Yarn or string
  • Fabric paint or markers
  • Small bell (optional)
  • Catnip (optional)

Directions

  1. Paint or draw fins and eyes on the sock
  2. Fill the sock with fiber fill
  3. Add a teaspoon of catnip (optional)
  4. Add a small bell (optional)
  5. Use the yarn or string to close the opening with a strong knot
  6. Leave a long section of yarn or string to pull or dangle the toy

Picture Book Review

June 12 – It’s Adopt a Cat Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lily's-cat-mask-cover

About the Holiday

Cats make wonderful pets! They can be cuddly or completely independent, but their playful personalities make for lots of laughs and love. If you own a cat, spend some extra time with your pet and ensure that all of your feline friend’s health needs are being met and are up-to-date. If you think you might like to adopt a cat into your family, visit your local animal shelter for cats and kittens who are looking for a forever home.

Lily’s Cat Mask

By Julie Fortenberry

 

Lily was starting school so her dad took her shopping. “Lily wasn’t sure she wanted to get new things for school, but her father said it would be fun.” After buying some clothes and meeting a woman they knew who gushed at how much Lily had grown, Lily was tired and wanted to go home. “But then she saw the cat mask.” It was the only one on the shelf, and Lily’s dad surprised her by buying it for her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lily's-cat-mask-shopping-with-dad

Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Lily put it on immediately and wore it on the way home. She wore it to tea parties with her toys, to family parties “when she wanted to be invisible. And when she wanted to be noticed.” When she wore it to her doctor’s appointment, the doctor spoke in meows. One day she lost her mask. Her dad made her a rabbit costume, and while that was fun for a while, Lily was happy to finally find her cat mask.

Lily wore her cat mask for many occasions. She wore it when she didn’t want to talk—like when she met her new teacher. “She liked to hide her face when she felt mean and couldn’t get nice.” She even blew out her birthday candles and made a wish wearing the mask. When school started, Lily was only allowed to wear her mask on the playground, but once in a while she put it on, hoping no one would notice. Then it was sometimes put in the teacher’s desk drawer.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lily's-cat-mask-making-a-wish

Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

One day, the teacher made a very exciting announcement. The class was going to have a costume party, and everyone could wear a mask or dress up however they wanted. On the day of the party, there were characters, animals, and bugs of all kinds. But then Lily looked across the room and saw the best costume of all—another cat! During recess the new friends played on the swings and meowed happily together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lily's-cat-mask-lily-at-school

Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Julie Fortenberry’s story of a quiet, hesitant child who discovers a unique way of interacting with the world around her offers openhearted acceptance and understanding for children who are observant and thoughtful integrators. The reaction of Lily’s father, teacher, doctor, and family members to her cat mask is uplifting and provides excellent modeling. The straightforward storytelling highlights Lily’s sweet personality as well as the empathetic responses her costume elicits.

Fotenberry’s illustrations of adorable Lily and her experiences at home, at school, at the doctor’s office, and at the mall are full of joy. The colors are fresh and vibrant, but also calm and peaceful, mirroring Lily’s feelings when wearing her cat mask. The images demonstrate and validate Lily’s preference to watch and participate in events from her own distance.

Lily’s Cat Mask provides the opportunity for much discussion with children, especially about meeting people, Lily’s birthday wish, where Lily sits and plays at parties and at school, and when Lily makes a friend. The book is highly recommended for classroom and school libraries and would make a welcome addition to home bookshelves as well.

Ages 4 – 7

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0425287996

Discover more about Julie Fortenberry and view a gallery of her books and artwork on her website!

Adopt a Cat Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-The-Cat's-Meow-Word-Search

The Cat’s Meow Word Search

 

There are so many beautiful types of cats! Can you find the names of twenty-one breeds in this printable The Cat’s Meow Word Search puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

May 11 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-summer-nick-taught-his-cats-to-read-cover

About the Holiday

When you love to read, you want to share the excitement that books hold. Get Caught Reading Month encourages people to pass along their love of all things written by asking folks to take pictures of themselves reading their favorite book and uploading those images to social media. Movie and TV celebrities, sports figures, authors, illustrators, teachers, mom, dads, grandmas and grandpas, and kids of all ages take part in this favorite annual event. Why don’t you?!

The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read

Written by Curtis Manley | Illustrated by Kate Berube

 

One summer Nick, Verne, and Stevenson did everything together. Nick is a little boy and Verne and Stevenson are two very different cats. Nick and Verne loved to spend time near the water—Stevenson tolerated it. Nick and Verne slept happily in a tent under the stars—Stevenson barely shut his eyes. While Nick rode his bike Verne eagerly sat in the front basket—Stevenson hunkered down in a box on the back. But when Nick sat down to read, both cats had similar ideas of fun—like lying on top of the book—and Nick could hardly read a sentence.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-summer-nick-taught-his-cats-to-read-ball

Image copyright Kate Berube, text copyright Curtis Manley, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

“So Nick decided to teach them how to read. He made flash cards and started with easy words” like “ball,” but Verne and Stevenson just wanted to play with the ball. While the three had a picnic on the lawn, Nick brought out his flashcards and “pointed to the word food. The cats ignored him.” When the cats snoozed Nick woke them with a sign. “‘This is no time for an N-A-P!’” he said. Neither cat responded well, so Nick tried a new tactic. He made word-shaped flash cards. Verne took a nibble of “F-I-S-H,” but Stevenson hid under the bed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-summer-nick-taught-his-cats-to-read-food-flash-cards

Image copyright Kate Berube, text copyright Curtis Manley, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Nick began to see that Verne liked stories about cats and fish. “Verne loved fish. He followed along as Nick read, learning the sounds of the letters.” He even read by himself, discovering new stories, especially 2,000 Leagues Under the Sea. But Stevenson? When Nick spelled words for him, he merely ran under the porch, hissing. By this time Verne was reading so many books that he got his own library card and Nick needed help carrying all of his books home. Nick and Verne had fun acting out their favorite stories, but they missed Stevenson.

One day “Verne discovered a treasure under the bed—a great stack of Stevenson’s pirate drawings. “‘Wow!’” Nick whispered. “‘Stevenson drew a story.’” Nick and Verne put the pages together and began to write words to go with them. When the story was finished, Nick, Verne, and Stevenson “squeezed under the porch, gave Stevenson an eye patch, and read The Tale of One-Eyed Stevenson and the Pirate Gold. Stevenson listened and followed along. He didn’t run away. Or hiss. Not even once.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-summer-nick-taught-his-cats-to-read-library

Image copyright Kate Berube, text copyright Curtis Manley, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Suddenly, Stevenson couldn’t get enough of books.  Even before Nick woke up, Stevenson could be found with his nose in Treasure Island or another adventure book, and whenever Nick and Verne played pirates, Stevenson joined in. He helped bring down “scurvy mutineers” and found buried treasure. Now the three readers do everything together. They “hunt for dinosaurs in the lost world behind the garden…race around the yard in eighty seconds…and journey to the center of the basement.” And while they all like to read on their own, they also like it when someone reads to them. “Hmmm…,” Nick thinks, maybe next he could teach his cats to talk. “‘Meow,’ says Stevenson.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-summer-nick-taught-his-cats-to-read-grumpy-stevenson

Image copyright Kate Berube, text copyright Curtis Manley, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Curtis Manley’s adorable tribute to reading and learning to read, using cats with very different personalities, is inspired. Just as some people respond more to the words while others are attracted by the pictures, Verne and Stevenson have their own relationships with books. The names of the cats and their preferred reading material are also reminders that books are personal, and disinterest in one type of story does not reflect disinterest in all stories. Manley’s text makes for a joyful read-aloud as his language and phrasing is evocative, lyrical, and imaginative.

In perfect accompaniment, Kate Berube brings this creative story to life, illustrating the tender relationship between Nick and his pets as well as emphasizing the humor and distinct personalities inherent in orange-striped Verne and smoky-gray Stevenson that influence their journeys to literacy. Depictions of the various books Verne and Stevenson are drawn to highlight the literary references in the trio’s further play. Readers will want to stop and peruse the page of library shelves, where such books as “Harry Picaroon and the Swashbuckler’s Stone”, “Harold and the Purple Canon”, “Millions of Rats”, and “Where the Wild Pirates Are” wait to be checked out in the Pirates section.

Kids will eagerly want to adopt The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read, and it will snuggle in nicely on children’s bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481435697

Discover “the facts, fictions, poems, and numbers” of Curtis Manley on his website!

View a gallery of Kate Berube‘s art on her website!

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

CPB - Cat Bookmark (2)

Feline Fine about Reading Bookmark

 

This want-to-be literary lion feels fine about reading! Let it hold your page while you’re away! Print your Feline Fine about Reading Bookmark and color it!

Picture Book Review

February 7 – It’s Haiku Writing Month

The Maine Coon's Haiku and Other Poems for Cat Lovers by Michael J. Rosen and Lee White picture book review

About the Holiday

National Haiku Writing Month—also known as NaHaiWriMo—encourages poets and poetry lovers to write one haiku a day for the entire month of February. Why was February chosen for this literary challenge? Perhaps the fact that the haiku is the shortest form of poetry and February is the shortest form of month makes them natural allies. While a haiku may be short, it is full of emotion and impact, not unlike its host month. If you have haiku inside of you, write them down and share them with others!

The Maine Coon’s Haiku and Other Poems for Cat Lovers

Written by Michael J. Rosen | Illustrated by Lee White

 

Fortunately for poetry—and cat—lovers there are as many types of felines as there are ways to describe them. With wit and keen insight, this collection of haiku depicts the mystery, stealth, crouching, and curiosity of twenty breeds of cats.

The remains of a shredded plant elicits an unanswerable question in Ragdoll: “why today the cat / who sleeps beneath the ivy / halved the blameless hearts.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-maine-coon's-haiku-american-shorthair

Image copyright Lee White, text copyright Michael J. Rosen. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Any cat owner who finds vases or lamps overturned will appreciate Siamese: “a toppled lamp shade / moon moth must be here somewhere / batted from the dark.” It is commonly known that cats own their domain, a fact acknowledged in British Shorthair: “paws plant mud-daisies / along the polished hillside / parked on the cat’s street.”

In these lines felines become baseball players, gymnasts, ghosts, and mist, as in Bombay: “paired shadows prowling / in nightfall, but just two lights / pierce that darkness” and Norwegian Forest Cat: “caught among branches / fog descends the trunk headfirst / one foot at a time.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-maine-coon's-haiku-norwegian-forest-coon

Image copyright Lee White, text copyright Michael J. Rosen. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

While the haiku form is necessarily rigid, the supple rhythms of Michael Rosen’s phrases perfectly capture the vast array of quirks, moves, attitudes, and friskiness that make cats such favorite pets. These poems are in turn sweet, spirited, and humorous—just like their subjects.

Lee White similarly highlights the bounding, creeping, prowling, and snoozing postures of all manner and colors of the breeds represented here. The Turkish Angora, stealthily creeping across a room, is painted as transparent as it leaps through the door, becoming more opaque as it reaches mid-page and disappearing from the edge of the book, leaving only its back end behind. The Abyssinian plunks its head and whole body across the open book on its owner’s lap, its eyes closed in dreamy sleep, and the Scottish Fold indomitably maintains its perch in the magnolia tree, determined not to fall like the raining petals.

Ages 5 and up (any cat lover will enjoy these poems)

Candlewick Press, 2015 | ISBN  978-0763664923

Get to know Michael J. Rosen and discover books for kids and adults, poems, videos, work for radio and TV, and more on his website!

View a beautiful gallery of artwork for books and personal illustration by Lee White on his website!

Haiku Writing Month Activity

CPB - Cat Bookmark (2)

Hang in there, Kitty! Bookmark

 

Do you love to read? Do you love to write? If you said yes to either or both of these questions, then here is a kitty that wants to hang out with you! 

Supplies

  • Printable Hang in there, Kitty! bookmark template
  • Card stock paper
  • Colored pencils, crayons, or markers
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Print the Hang in there, Kitty! bookmark (printing on card stock will make a sturdier bookmark)
  2. Color the bookmark
  3. Cut around the toes of the front paws, leaving the top of the paws attached to make flaps that will hang over the page you want to mark

Picture Book Review

December 9 – Lost and Found Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-christmas-cat-cover

About the Holiday

We all know that feeling of joy when something we love and think lost is found again. Today’s holiday commemorates that emotion and gives us a chance to reflect on the things that are most important to us. While Lost and Found Day was established in 2012, the first Lost and Found repository was opened by Napoleon Bonapart—who knew a thing or two about loss—in 1805. Today, take a moment to remember a time when you found something precious.

The Christmas Cat

Written by Maryann Macdonald | Illustrated by Amy June Bates

 

“Jesus was beautiful, like all babies,” but on the night he was born he cried and cried. Mary tried everything to comfort him—a warm blanket, feeding him, rocking him—but nothing soothed him. Looking on, the other animals longed to help. “Doves fluttered down from the rafters, settling on the creaky stable door.” Although their coos were soft and musical, the baby did not stop crying.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-christmas-cat-crying-jesus

Image copyright Amy June Bates, courtesy of amyjunebates.blogspot.com/

The gentle brown cow tried next, lowing the lullaby she used on her own calf, but Jesus cried louder. And even though the donkey meant well, her braying “made Jesus cry loudest of all.” Then from a hiding place a little kitten crept “step by careful step” toward Mary and Jesus. Leaping lightly onto Mary’s lap, the kitten “nuzzled Jesus’s neck. Then he began to purr, a calm, contented purr that came from deep inside.” Jesus gazed at the tiny kitten, and as he touched the soft fur his crying quieted. The barn grew silent and the new family and all the animals slept soundly.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-christmas-cat-mary-and-jesus

Image copyright Amy June Bates, courtesy of amyjunebates.blogspot.com/

As time passed and the kitten grew into a cat, he and Jesus became close companions, playing together under the fig tree. When it was naptime, “it was the cat’s turn to watch over the baby and purr him to sleep.” But one day their peaceful life was shattered. Jesus’s father, Joseph, learned through an angel that King Herod was looking for Jesus. Harod had heard rumors that Jesus would grow up to be king one day. “Herod’s soldiers, the angel said, were racing toward Bethlehem, hoping to find the baby Jesus and destroy him.”

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus hurried to leave their home, packing everything they had to go now—in the middle of the night—to escape detection and flee to Egypt. With all their goods piled onto their donkey, Mary and Joseph were ready to leave. But where was Jesus’s cat? “Mary and Joseph combed through the tall grass, searched the shadows near the fire and looked high in the branches of the fig tree. But the cat was nowhere to be found.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-christmas-cat-and-jesus-playing

Image copyright Amy June Bates, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers

It was much too dangerous to linger, and so, sadly, the family left Bethlehem without their beloved pet. In the chill night air, Jesus was uncomfortable; he missed his cat. “He clenched his tiny fists and screamed.” Joseph worried. Were the campfires on the horizon Herod’s soldiers? Could they hear Jesus crying? Both Mary and Joseph missed the calming influence of their cat. Suddenly, Jesus heard a familiar wail. Out of the basket tied to the donkey’s flank popped his companion. Jesus reached out for him, and the cat leaped into his arms.

After the two had greeted each other as long lost friends, they fell asleep to the cat’s tender purring as “the donkey carried them far away from Herod’s soldiers and their terrible swords, far away to the safe land of Egypt. Love had saved them.” As the two grew older together, they loved each other as only a pet and it’s child can. “They were meant for each other…from the very first Christmas night, in the bright starlight.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-christmas-cat-bethlehem

Image copyright Amy June Bates, courtesy of amyjunebates.blogspot.com/

In her Author’s Note following the text, Maryann Macdonald reveals that her story is inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of La Madonna del Gatto or the Madonna of the Cat, in which the baby Jesus is depicted holding and playing with a cat as he sits on his mother’s lap, as well as legends of a cat that lived in the stable where Jesus was born.

Maryann Macdonald’s gentle story of the baby Jesus soothed by a kitten on the night he was born and saved by this same pet on his flight to Egypt will captivate young children. The focus on the child-animal bond will delight little ones with pets of their own and makes the Christmas story immediately accessible. Macdonald’s lyrical language beautifully portrays the emotion and setting of the story, and she establishes the danger faced by the family with age-appropriate suspense.

Amy June Bates enhances the story with gorgeous traditional paintings of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, the stable and its animals, and the nighttime journey to Egypt. Her watercolor, gauche, and pencil illustrations glow with warm ambers, greens, and midnight blues. The barn animals are sweetly gentle and earnest in their attempts to soothe the crying baby, and the realistic portraits of the family demonstrate their love for each other. Children will especially like the images of Jesus and his pet cat cuddling and playing together. The final illustration of Mary, Jesus, and their cat echoes the drawing by Leonardo da Vinci that accompanies the Author’s Note.

For pet owners and animal lovers, The Christmas Cat would make a meaningful addition to their holiday collection.

Ages 3 – 6

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013 | ISBN 978-0803734982

To learn more about Maryann Macdonald and her books, visit her website!

To view a portfolio of artwork by Amy June Bates, visit her blog!

Lost and Found Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lost-and-found-kitten-maze

Lost and Found Kitten Maze

 

A little girl has lost her kitten! Can you help her get through the printable Lost and Found Kitten Maze to find her pet?

Picture Book Review

September 8 – International Literacy Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-summer-nick-taught-his-cats-to-read-cover

About the Holiday

In 1966 UNESCO (United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture) established International Literacy Day on this date to “actively mobilize the international community to promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities, and societies.” Marking its 50th anniversary, International Literacy Day is this year celebrating the theme “Reading the Past, Writing the Future” to commemorate five decades of efforts to increase in literacy rates around the world and the progress made. “It also looks to innovative solutions to further boost literacy in the future.” With a focus on innovation, International Literacy Prizes are also awarded to people with outstanding solutions that can drive literacy towards achieving future goals.

The World Literacy Foundation also celebrates today’s holiday with the 2016 campaign “The Sky’s the Limit,” which aims to eliminate the digital divide for students in the developing world.

The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read

Written by Curtis Manley | Illustrated by Kate Berube

 

One summer Nick, Verne, and Stevenson did everything together. Nick is a little boy and Verne and Stevenson are two very different cats. Nick and Verne loved to spend time near the water—Stevenson tolerated it. Nick and Verne slept happily in a tent under the stars—Stevenson barely shut his eyes. While Nick rode his bike Verne eagerly sat in the front basket—Stevenson hunkered down in a box on the back. But when Nick sat down to read, both cats had their own ideas of fun—like lying on top of the book—and Nick could hardly read a sentence.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-summer-nick-taught-his-cats-to-read-ball

Image copyright Kate Berube, text copyright Curtis Manley, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

“So Nick decided to teach them how to read. He made flash cards and started with easy words” like “ball,” but Verne and Stevenson just wanted to play with the ball. While the three had a picnic on the lawn, “Nick pointed to the word food. The cats ignored him.” When the cats snoozed Nick woke them with a sign. “‘This is no time for an N-A-P!’” he said. Neither cat responded well, so Nick tried a new tactic. He made word-shaped flash cards. Verne took a nibble of “F-I-S-H,” but Stevenson hid under the bed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-summer-nick-taught-his-cats-to-read-food-flash-cards

Nick began to see that Verne liked stories about cats and fish. “Verne loved fish. He followed along as Nick read, learning the sounds of the letters.” He even read by himself, discovering new stories, especially 2,000 Leagues Under the Sea. But Stevenson? When Nick spelled words for him, he merely ran under the porch, hissing. By this time Verne was reading so many books that he got his own library card and Nick needed help carrying all of his books home. Nick and Verne had fun acting out their favorite stories, but they missed Stevenson.

One day “Verne discovered a treasure under the bed—a great stack of Stevenson’s pirate drawings. “‘Wow!’” Nick whispered. “‘Stevenson drew a story.’” Nick and Verne put the pages together and began to write words to go with them. When the story was finished, Nick, Verne, and Stevenson “squeezed under the porch, gave Stevenson an eye patch, and read The Tale of One-Eyed Stevenson and the Pirate Gold. Stevenson listened and followed along. He didn’t run away. Or hiss. Not even once.”

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Image copyright Kate Berube, text copyright Curtis Manley, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

 

Suddenly, Stevenson couldn’t get enough of books.  Even before Nick woke up, Stevenson could be found with his nose in Treasure Island or another adventure book, and whenever Nick and Verne played pirates, Stevenson joined in. He helped bring down “scurvy mutineers” and found buried treasure. Now the three readers do everything together. They “hunt for dinosaurs in the lost world behind the garden…race around the yard in eighty seconds…and journey to the center of the basement.” And while they all like to read on their own, they also like it when someone reads to them. “Hmmm…,” Nick thinks, maybe next he could teach his cats to talk. “‘Meow,’ says Stevenson.”

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Image copyright Kate Berube, text copyright Curtis Manley, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Curtis Manley’s adorable tribute to reading and learning to read using cats, with their variety of personalities, is inspired. Just as some people respond more to the words while others are attracted by the pictures, Verne and Stevenson have their own relationships with books. The names of the cats and their preferred reading material are also reminders that books are personal, and disinterest in one type of story does not reflect disinterest in all stories. Manley’s text makes for a joyful read-aloud as his language and phrasing is evocative, lyrical, and imaginative.

In perfect accompaniment, Kate Berube brings this creative story to life, illustrating the tender relationship between Nick and his pets as well as emphasizing the humor and distinct personalities inherent in orange striped Verne and smoky gray Stevenson that influence their journeys to literacy. Depictions of the various books Verne and Stevenson are drawn to highlight the literary references in the trio’s further play. Readers will want to stop and peruse the page of library shelves, where such books as “Harry Picaroon and the Swashbuckler’s Stone”, “Harold and the Purple Canon”, “Millions of Rats”, and “Where the Wild Pirates Are” wait to be checked out in the Pirates section.

Kids will eagerly want to adopt The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read, and it will snuggle in nicely on children’s bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481435697

Discover “the facts, fictions, poems, and numbers” of Curtis Manley on his website!

View a gallery of Kate Berube‘s art on her website!

International Literacy Day Activity

CPB - Cat Bookmark (2)

Feline Fine about Reading Bookmark

 

This want-to-be literary lion feels fine about reading! Let it hold your page while you’re away! Print your Feline Fine about Reading Bookmark and color it!

Picture Book Review