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Cat Dog

Cat Dog

Cat Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cat Dog

Mem Fox

Mark Teague

Puffin, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781761045868

This is an hilarious story about a dog, a cat and a cheeky mouse, who because they are traditionally enemies, are always a combination that can have any number of outcomes and this one does.

Its format  will appeal to very young readers because each page is based on a question that the reader has to answer Yes or No to, ensuring they use the clues to make their prediction. And not everything is what it seems.  And with the ending in the reader’s hands,  there is so much scope for imagining ‘what if’.

Mem Fox is the master of creating stories that not only engage young readers but draw on all her knowledge and expertise of early reading behaviour to ensure they discover the joy of stories and reading and sharing them from the earliest age.  Teague’s depictions of the characters not only add to the intrigue but also add humour and a touch of whimsy.  Definitely one for the younger readers in your life, but also for those studying the art of the picture book because this is an example of the very best at their best. 

The Adventures of Mittens

The Adventures of Mittens

The Adventures of Mittens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Adventures of Mittens

Silvio Bruinsma

Phoebe Morris

Puffin, 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

 9780143775850

Mittens is the most famous cat ever to parade the streets of Wellington, New Zealand with his noble nose and fabulously fluffy tail in the air. Mittens is on a mission to leave no corner of the CBD unexplored, no passerby unsmooched, no business, school or residence uninspected. He naps in shop windows, hails cars, crosses busy roads on the green light and, like any self-respecting cat, he lives for attention – but only when he’s in the mood for it.

The Turkish Angora caught the the attention of the world when, just by being his inquisitive and charming self, his antics cheered up Wellingtonians during the 2020 lockdown. Wellington’s mayor awarded Mittens a Key to the City and HRF (His Royal Floofiness) was even nominated for New Zealander of the Year!

With thousands of followers on a Facebook page, a hit song, and an exhibition of fan art called Floofy and Famous, this book of how he touched the heart of so many building social bridges during his wanderings brings to life has been written by one of his guardians, a family of four, using a days-of-the-week format and rhyming text .Even those who have not met Mittens, and don’t know Wellington but do know cats will resonate with that arrogant, I’m-doing-you-a-favour attitude that emanates from Mittens. For those who detest the idea of cats roaming freely, there are tips for how to keep them at home and the fact that Mittens has raised a lot of money for both animal welfare and mental health charities through his profile, may mitigate that. 

Mittens came to fame because of the lockdown in Wellington during 2020, providing a daily connection to people in isolation and thus his story could be the springboard to getting children to talk about their pets, their lockdown connections and how they coped and are coping, perhaps even considering how they can reach out to those in their community even more isolated than they are.  Perhaps when restrictions are lifted it can be a time to forge new friendships with all ages…

Mapping Sam

Mapping Sam

Mapping Sam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mapping Sam

Joyce Hesselberth

HarperCollins US, 2021

40pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780063043220

Each night after Sam the cat has made sure that the family are safely tucked in bed, she goes on a nighttime wander.  

But rather than this being a tale of what she does and who she meets while she is out, this story is the impetus for exploring how maps are used to “tell us how to get from here to there” and “tell us what is where”.  It is a unique introduction to the purpose of information illustrations like maps, charts and diagrams and how they can be used so that a picture does indeed, tell 1000 words. 

By using an inquisitive cat whose favourite place is atop what will be the highest building in the neighbourhood (shown through a birds-eye-view map) this is a clever story that engages the reader because they become invested in Sam’s explorations rather than being confronted by dry explanations. As Sam follows her customary path, wandering farther and farther away from home, readers encounter different kinds of maps illuminating different points of view and the various spots Sam visits. Finally, when Sam reaches her favourite place and confirms that all is well, she heads back home, climbs onto a cosy bed, and falls asleep.

Thus the reader comes away with having enjoyed a story as well as new knowledge, knowledge that is consolidated by two pages of background  information just to draw all the concepts together.

For those who think that maps are confined to using the sat nav or Google maps, this is an excellent introduction to the variation and purpose of maps and the importance of being able to read, interpret and perhaps even create our own.  They are so much more than the stereotype Boy Scout activity!

Teachers notes created by the author are available.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The Biscuit Maker

The Biscuit Maker

The Biscuit Maker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Biscuit Maker

Sue Lawson

Liz Anelli

Walker Books, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99

9781760650438

Every morning Benedict Stanley and his  cat Audrey Mae stand at their gate and greet their neighbours as they scurry off ready to start their day.  But sadly, the neighbours are too busy to reply – ears are full and mouths are closed.  And even though Benedict and Audrey Mae spend hours creating a beautiful garden to give those neighbours something beautiful to look at, still the neighbours just rush on by. 

Then one day Rory stops to admire Audrey Mae and with a gappy smile, tells Benedict that the Tooth Fairy will be visiting him tonight.  That give Benedict an idea and so he goes to the kitchen, reaches for his wife’s recipe book and begins to bake…

Soon, nearly every event that happens in Mavin Road is celebrated with a batch of special biscuits, made and delivered secretly by Benedict and Audrey Mae.  what a difference it makes until one day Benedict gets so ill he cannot bake.  Will the neighbours notice? Will they discover who their benefactor is?

This is a heart-warming story that demonstrates the human need for connection to others yet even on a busy street like Mavin Road, loneliness can be deep, especially for those who are older, retired, widowed or otherwise living alone. Rory’s connection to the cat changes more lives that can be imagined by one conversation and that special bond that little ones often have with the generation beyond their parents is celebrated. It also shows how sharing food is a universal way of bringing people together, opening the door for readers to share and cook their own special biscuit recipes for the class.

One of those “old-fashioned” stories that wraps its arms around you like a hug, it is a worthy CBCA Picture Book of the Year Notable for 2021.

Slinky Malinki’s Christmas 123

Slinky Malinki's Christmas 123

Slinky Malinki’s Christmas 123

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slinky Malinki’s Christmas 123

Lynley Dodd

Puffin, 2020

20pp., board book., RRP $A16.99

9780143775355

What happens when one creeping cat gets amongst the decorations on the Christmas tree?

Young readers will delight in the chaos that is caused when Slinky Malinki, like so many pet cats, finds the baubles and bows on the Christmas tree too great a temptation.  But can you really get cross with him? 

Another addition to the collection of Hairy Maclary and his friends that have been giving joy for generations now – team it with Slinky Malinki’s Christmas Crackers for the ultimate Christmas gift!

Catvinkle and the Missing Tulips

Catvinkle and the Missing Tulips

Catvinkle and the Missing Tulips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catvinkle and the Missing Tulips

Elliot Perlman

Laura Stitzel

Puffin, 2020

304pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760894382

Catvinkle lives in Amsterdam, with her barber-owner Mr Sabatini, and she likes to think that the world revolves around her, as cats generally do. From her basket near the fireplace in what she considers to be her room, she watches the legs and feet of the passers-by as they walk past her window, delighted when she sees someone with socks that don’t match and occasionally swishing her tail that has a big red bow tied to it. All is well with her world.

Now best friends with Ula the stray Dalmatian this second adventure in this series  with its subtle message about inclusivity and acceptance is as delightful as the first, even to a non-cat person like me. This time Catvinkle and Ula find themselves defending two sheep accused of eating Amsterdam’s tulips, and they’re not sure what to believe. The sheep say they’re innocent, but they do look very sheepish. But to win this case, Catvinkle will need the help of a wolfhound, a llama, two travelling koalas, a pair of Russian bears . . . and a very special bird.

As well as being an entertaining read for those who like something a bit different that is engaging, this also has an underlying theme of justice, fairness and those other qualities that are so important at this time to that age group that hasn’t quite discovered shades of grey and compromise yet.

Even though Perlman has received many awards for his adult novels, he certainly knows how to spin a tale for children and these two together would make an excellent gift for newly independent readers who enjoy animal stories that are just good, clean fun. 

 

Marshmallow Pie (series)

Marshmallow Pie (series)

Marshmallow Pie (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cat Superstar

9780008355852

The Cat Superstar on TV

9780008355890

The Cat Superstar in Hollywood

9780008355913

HarperCollins, 2020

128pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Marshmallow Marmaduke Vanilla-Bean Sugar-Pie Fluffington-Fitz-Noodle is a big, fluffy (and grumpy) cat. He LOVES the easy life: lazing in the sunshine, eating Shrimp Crunchies and annoying Buster, the dog downstairs, from the safety of the balcony above. Now living with the shy Amelia in a top floor flat in the city, instead of the quiet country life he was used to, he already thinks he is a star, but Amelia is determined to make it official when she sees an advertisement for cats to audition to join a casting agency for film and television.  And so begins a life of grooming and training and the limelight…

This is a great new series for newly independent readers who still need some support and who love cats.  Given the photos that one sees on social media of cats in all sorts of finery, that would seem to be a very broad target market and so this series is going to please a lot of young readers.  Told by Marshmallow Pie himself, in the supercilious , no-fools-entertained, I’m-entitled voice that you just know matches his personality, the author of the Dotty Detective series brings her characters to life in a way that will delight those who have cats and who have been dreams for them.

With the first two available now, and the third due in time for that January holiday slump, this series will be a just-right introduction to the world of novels and the fun of getting to know characters over a period of time and adventures. 

The Astronaut’s Cat

The Astronaut's Cat

The Astronaut’s Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Astronaut’s Cat

Tohby Riddle

Allen & Unwin, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760524944

The astronaut’s cat is an inside cat.
And she likes it like that.

But unlike other inside cats, the astronaut’s cat is on the moon, where it is so hot during the day a bowl of water would quickly boil, and so cold during the night it’s ten times colder than being in a fridge freezer!!  So each day Cat looks out the window at Astronaut working while she watches and snoozes and dreams of going outside to pounce and bounce lighter than a birthday balloon.  But when Earth rises on the inky black horizon she dreams of being back where there is colour and movement and shapes and forms and Mother Nature fills her with sights and sounds and scents…

When the masterful Mr Riddle created this book he would have had no idea that it was going to be released at a time when many of its readers were going to be cooped up inside, just like his cat. That being able to go outside and breathe fresh air and savour the sights, sounds and smells of the great outdoors would be as much a risk for them at this time as it is for Cat. That they would gaze through their windows and dream of earlier times… 

He probably thought that he was just creating a story about his cat Pom Pom who is just like the cat in the story – completely white, odd eyes and pink ears – and who, being an inside cat, spends her time gazing at the window outside.  While he has cleverly superimposed Pom Pom and Astronaut onto real backgrounds of the lunar landscape to help intensify the feelings of isolation and disconnectedness, here on Earth it is a deadly disease keeping people indoors rather than a hostile environment.  But unlike Cat we can connect so perhaps sharing this story could be the catalyst to connect our kids with the Through My Window activity. Have each one look out their window as Cat did, and draw or photograph what they see, including the sounds and the smells they are missing (good or not-so) and write an explanation to share with their friends. Maybe they could pop a teddy or something in the scene and challenge others to find it. 

Here’s what is outside my window this morning…

But here’s what I am missing…

 

A great way to think about how Cat might be feeling and the things we take for granted. As Joni Mitchell sand in Big Yellow Taxi, “You don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone…”

Cat Science Unleashed

Cat Science Unleashed

Cat Science Unleashed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cat Science Unleashed

Jodi Wheeler-Toppen

Matthew Rakola 

National Geographic Kids, 2019

80pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9781426334412

 This is part of the NatGeo Kids Hands-On Science series and complements their website aimed at 6-12 year olds.  But rather than just facts and figures about cats that can be found in any book about them, this encourages the reader to participate in  22 safe and cat-friendly activities that let  them work alongside their cat to discover what makes it tick.

They can learn the effects of catnip  and why it can see so well in the dark; how it balances so well and always land on its feet as wells as toys to make.  Each activity is paired with step-by-step instructions, clear and interesting scientific explanations, and cool photographs shot specifically for this book. Hands-on activities and fun information for budding scientists prompt further learning and offer a behind-the-scenes look at current feline research.

Using a magazine format with lots of photos and diagrams as well as information in accessible chunks, it is divided into four chapters, each accompanied by relevant explanations and activities. There is also a glossary, an index, and other extra information to help students build their information literacy skills as they learn to navigate non fiction texts. 

There are often queries to TL networks about what are the best magazine subscriptions to continue as popularity tends to wane, and for the primary school age group, Nat Geo Kids is always near the top of the list proving it has stood the test of time as an investment.  With such a focus on the environment well beyond the curriculum, it just make sense to make it available to our students.

A Home for Luna

A Home for Luna

A Home for Luna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Home for Luna

Stef Gemmill

Mel Armstrong

New Frontier, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781925594843

On a cold, moonlit night a dark crate washes up on a lonely shore, and out crawls a bedraggled, lonely cat, wary of her surroundings so different from the home she remembers, but glad to be out of the ceaseless motion of the sea.  As daylight creeps up, she woke and looked around only to find herself among creatures that didn’t look like anything she had seen, certainly not cats, but the familiar fishy smell drew her forward. 

Too tired to move, she lay on the rocks watching the penguins swim and return with fish, making her tummy rumbled.  And then one of them approached her… is this a friendly move or one fraught with fear?

Mel Armstrong, an experienced illustrator making her children’s book debut, has created bold illustrations which suggest that Luna is  no weak, wimpy cat and so the reader expects that this story is going to go well beyond that initial meeting and that conflict or camaraderie. there is some meat to it.

On the surface, this is a simple story about two creatures forming an unlikely friendship, one that reaches a climax when humans arrive at the colony and decide that it is no place for a cat.  But looking beneath the surface, could it be the story of a refugee arriving in a strange land amongst strange people, and being accepted just for who they are, rather than anything else?  And a government making a determination about their suitability to stay?  Or am I viewing it through the lens of so many news stories about worthy people facing deportation, so much so my views of a children’s story have been tainted and I see allegory each time I read a story like this?  Whichever, it is refreshing to read one that is about resilience and hope and which has the sort of ending we would all wish for, whether it’s a cat washed ashore or a person. 

Read more about the story behind the story here

A peek inside...

A peek inside…