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Great Reading for Cat-crazy Kids

Featuring Felines!

By Sheila Welch

Our book reviewer, Sheila Welch, has been digging around for children’s books about animals and, predominantly, cats. Here are her top picks:

Find the White Horse

Find the White Horse

Find the White Horse by the popular British author Dick King-Smith, illustrated with pen and ink sketches by Larry Wilkes, is reminiscent of The Incredible Journey. All of the animals in King-Smith’s story – Squintum, a neglected Siamese cat; Lubber, an old dog saved by the cat from being euthanized; Katie, a homing pigeon; and Colleen, a purebred setter who was left tied and abandoned – are unashamedly anthropomorphized, yet retain many animal traits. For example, Squintum gobbles down a litter of baby mice and thinks of Katie, the pigeon, in terms of a meal until she proves useful as a high-flying scout. Why do they need to find the White Horse? Lubber’s owners live in a small village with a view of an oversized landmark, a gigantic horse carved into the white chalk on a huge grassy hill. The lively dialog and action-packed plot will entertain independent readers in third through fifth grades as they absorb the underlying plea for the humane treatment of animals.

Chato's Kitchen

Chato Kitchen

Chato’s Kitchen by Gary Soto is illustrated by Susan Guevara with vibrant, expressive, and imaginative paintings. Soto’s text incorporates many Spanish words and phrases and includes a glossary plus the menu for the meal shared by two cats, a family of mice and one friendly dog. This is an exuberant tale that promises – after some worrisome scenes – fun and camaraderie for the traditionally antagonistic animals. Although a picture book, Chato’s Kitchen can be enjoyed by children from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Smoky Night and Black Cat

Black cat and Smoky night
There are many similarities between Eve Bunting’s Smoky Night and Christopher Myers’ Black Cat. Both are large-sized picture books that won major award recognition, involve cats as characters (a black cat is the main character in Myers’ tale), and each book depicts elements of urban life. Bunting is well known for her willingness to tackle unusual and often difficult subjects, and Smoky Night could be her most provocative title since it concerns city riots. Children as well as adults will be swept into the story by David  Diaz’s brilliantly colored, semi-abstract illustrations. The ending, with the neighbor cats hunkering down for a shared meal, feels just right. The lone black cat in Myers’ book has no home, but he certainly leads an interesting life in his city setting. Due to the topics included in these two books, they can be read and discussed by readers from third grade on up to adults.

The Grannyman

The Grannyman

The final feline book is a favorite at our house. The Grannyman, written and illustrated by Judith Byron Schachner, is a totally charming story of Simon, a Siamese cat with a crooked tail. The large format with both spot and full page pictures is great for sharing during a family storytime. Children and adults alike will appreciate the warmth of this gentle tale that concludes with Simon becoming the Grannyman to a new kitten.

About Sheila

Sheila Kelly Welch is a mother, grandmother and retired teacher. She counts among her children’s fiction books LITTLE PRINCE KNOW-IT-ALL and A HORSE FOR ALL SEASONS. Sheila's novel, WAITING TO FORGET, has been selected by Bank Street College and Pennsylvania School Library Association for their lists of best-books-of-the-year. Her most recent stories, MESS-UP MOLLY and BIG CAT AND KITTEN, are published on-line by MeeGenius.