I haven’t been able to post for almost a week. I somehow hurt my back putting away the groceries last Sunday. Seriously. Putting. Away. The. Groceries. After the doctor told me that I should not go back to work until Monday, I found myself thinking, Nah, I can go back tomorrow. I did not know what I was talking about and was stunned by how much pain I was in and for how long. I missed a week of work which was very hard for someone like me who has the attention span of a hummingbird. So, I told myself, Okay. Look. Let’s just take this time and post all of those picture book reviews, do the book fair fliers, author visit preparations, and lesson plans for November. The problem with that plan was that I did not have a full understanding of how steroids, muscle relaxers, and Tylenol with Codeine could turn me into a mindless blob. I became a couch potato only able to concentrate on mindless binge watching and the occasional walkabout in my own home. It is what it is I told myself trying to see if I could squat and pet the cat that kept going around my legs. Could not do it. He was not going to go on his hind legs either for pets on the head.
I missed petting my cats and one in particular, Lorenzo, our old kitty who recently passed. He would have been sleeping beside me day and night. We think he was about 18-19 years old. It’s hard to tell with a rescue cat. When he was good, he was very good; but when he was bad…Well, we still have his tooth marks on the furniture and book corners. I dedicate this blog in remembrance of him on National Cat Day.
Some New 2017 Cat Picture Books
Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite by Stacy McAnulty; illustrated by Edward Hemingway. Pencil, ink, and digital media. 2017. Published by Two Lions.
Brief summary: Mr. Fuzzbuster and Lily have been together since they were both tots sharing life events throughout the years. Mr. Fuzzbuster is concerned with the additional pets (Fish, Frog, Bird, and Dog) and that he may no longer be Lily’s favorite. He writes her a note asking what pet is the favorite. Lily walks through the house telling how each of her pets are her favorite in a certain category. Mr. Fuzzbuster gets the favoritism he seeks but then wonders…
Comments: Mr. Fuzzbuster is a true cat–always wanting to be the center of attention.
Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper; illustrated by Elisha Cooper. 2017. Black and white illustrations. Published by Roaring Brook Press.
Brief summary: There is a white cat living alone in a house until a black kitten arrives learning all about how to live the house through the white cat’s teachings. The black cat grows to be the same size as his new friend. They spend many years together until the white cat gets older and does not come back. Then one day, a white kitten joins the black cat who shows the new kitten how to live in the house.
Comments: This cat picture book continues in the mind of the reader. The life cycle. This would be a good story for the school counselor to read when a student’s pet dies. One could share this book to help explain death and dying and how we go on.
Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey by Doug Kuntz, and Amy Shrodes; illustrated by SueCornelison. 2017. Published by Crown Books for Young Readers.
Brief summary: Kunkush, a beautiful white cat, and his family must leave Iraq to find a safe place to live. Sura and her four daughters and son pay smugglers to get them out of the country only being permitted to take food and water. Kunkush is concealed in a basket. The cat stays hidden as they go to one country to another. They arrive in Greece and must all get on a small rubber boat. Once they land though the frightened cat flees into the woods. After searching for hours, the family has to leave. Two volunteers, Amy and Ashley, notice a white cat living with a colony of cats on the island and take it to the vet to get help and cleaned up. They rename him Dias. Amy keeps the cat in her apartment. The two volunteers are determined to find the owner and put up a Facebook page. Amy’s time in Lesbos has ended. She takes Dias back to Germany where some of the refugees traveled. A British couple keep him. Soon Dias is found by his family who are living in Norway. Doug, a photographer, take Dias to Norway to reunite the cat with his family.
Comments: This is a story that can be shared with students by showing the cat’s journey on Google maps and learning about countries the family traveled through on their journey. Refugees and immigrants can be discussed. What causes someone to flee their country? How would you feel only being able to take food and water with you? This story could be used to discuss feelings. How do you think Sura felt when her husband was killed and she had to flee? What did she think was going to happen to her and her family? How did the family feel while being smuggled? What about when they could not find Kunkush? How did they feel when they were reunited in Norway? There are photos of the cat and map of his journey. This is a picture book that could have several discussions and lessons not only with elementary schoolers but for older students as well. Warning: Kunkush dies in 2016 from a feline virus.
Caring for Your Lion by Tammi Sauer; illustrated by Troy Cummings. 2017. Artworks was created digitally. Published by Sterling Children’s Books.
Brief summary: A boy has been waiting for almost a month for his new kitty to arrive. He has all of the pet supplies ready. The pet delivery truck arrives with a giant wooden crate with a note on it. “Congratulations on your new lion! We know you ordered a kitten, but we ran out of those.” There is an instruction sheet of ludicrous fourteen steps to follow.
Comments: Be sure to look the front end pages where the story begins. Troy Cummings’ hilarious 50s/60s cartoon style brings the story alive with one humorous step to the next. I would use this book as a writing exercise. Students could think of a wild animal that they would receive in the mail and what steps they would need to take to care for it. Drawings could be included.
The Lost Kitten by Lee Sakai; illustrated by Komako Sakai. 2017(translation). Arylic colors and oil pencils. Published by Gecko Press.
Brief summary: Hina and her mother open the front door to find a sickly kitten with a mama cat and her other kittens standing aside. The mother cat meows and nods her head as to ask for them to take care of her baby before leaving. Hina’s mother agrees to keep the kitten and brings it inside. She gently wipes the goo from the kitten’s eyes explaining to her daughter that they will take it to the vet tomorrow to make sure the little feline is okay. Hina learns how to take care of the tiny kitten as it explores the house. Her mother must go to buy cat food leaving Hina with her sleeping Grandmother. Hina tries to come up with a name for the new family addition and realizes the kitten is no longer in her sight. She searches all over the house becoming very upset recalling the time she was lost in a store and wanted her mother. She felt the little kitten must have felt the same way and must be found immediately. Not seeing it anywhere inside, Hina concludes the kitten must have slipped outside when her mother left to go for food. The girl opens the closet door and starts to put on her coat when she looks down finding the kitten on the bottom of the closet floor safe and sleeping. The little girl begins to cry relieved to have found her new lost baby. Her mother comes home learning Hina has come up with the name for the newest member of the family.
Comments: This book was originally printed in Japan in 2015. The unique illustrations of Komako Sakai stand out with this book through her soft and muted brushstrokes and black pencil. I could not find a lot of information about this author and illustrator but hope to have more books translated in the future.
Popular Cats in Children’s Literature
These are some of the cat books that are always circulating in my elementary library. Some are rarely in, and some cause a lot of arguing when they are in. I have to take out the big dice on my desk and see which child rolls the highest.
Cat Novels for Adults
I rarely have any time now to read fiction with cat characters, but there are several I have enjoyed. I hear some of the older teachers talking about what they are going to do when they retire from teaching. I just smile inside. Librarians never retire from books. There are several interesting cat mystery books that I would like to read. These are two cat mystery series that I have started:
I am ending with THE KITTY: Who Rescued Me After I Rescued Him by a new author, Shawn P. Flynn, who discovers for the first time what it is like to be loved by a cat and to love a cat. I wish him the best with his new kitty.