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Floof

Floof

Floof

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Floof

Heidi McKinnon

Albert Street Books, 2022

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

9781761180088

This is Floof.
Floof is floofy.
Floof is VERY floofy.
Floof is the FLOOFIEST!
Floof is going to have a very busy day

This is a story for our youngest readers, particularly those who have big, fluffy cats because they will recognise their pet immediately.  From breakfast in the morning till the final evening snooze, Floof is busy, often creating havoc unintentionally as he just goes about his day.  

The text is simple and little ones will need to connect it with the illustrations to fully appreciate McKinnon’s tale, an essential part of those early reading behaviours as they learn to read beyond the lines.  In fact, the astute adult will skip the words initially, and have the child suggest what is going on, getting them to retell Floof’s adventures in their own words. 

While we are familiar with those who over-write, who share every detail in words as though their audience cannot see or draw their own connections, this is a case of less is more, and in that, lies it appeal and brilliance. 

Cat Spies Mouse

Cat Spies Mouse

Cat Spies Mouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cat Spies Mouse

Rina A. Foti

Dave Atze

Big Sky, 2022

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

9781922615213

When Cat spies mouse, he grabs him and tells him he is going to gobble her up.  But being a feisty mouse, she disagrees and asks, “Why would you do that?” And so begins a back-and-forth conversation about the fairness of bigger being allowed to eat smaller because “that’s the way it is”. Mouse, who must be terrified, nevertheless has courage and tries to convince Cat that it would be better to be friends, but Cat is not interested until along comes D-O-G!

Told entirely in conversation with different coloured text identifying each speaker, this is a charming story about assumed power invested by size – just because you’re bigger doesn’t make you in charge – and it will promote discussion about whether being little means giving in or having rights. Is Cat (or Dog) a bully? Mouse’s arguing against the status quo is very reminiscent of little ones who feel injustice keenly but who don’t quite know how to get something sorted, although they are determined to win and make their own world fairer. Having the courage to speak up for change is a big lesson in assertiveness, and while parents might end the conversation with “Because I said so!” it is nevertheless a sign that their little one is maturing and gaining independence.

The illustrations are divine – set on a white background, all the emotions and feelings are contained in the animals’ body language and facial expressions that even without being able to read the words for themselves, very young readers will still be able to work out the story and participate in that crucial pre-reading behaviour.

Don’t be fooled by its apparent simplicity – this is a thought-provoking read that we can all take heed of, regardless of our age!

That Cat

That Cat

That Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That Cat

Jacqueline Harvey

Kate Isobel Scott

Puffin, 2022

24pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781761040702

All over the country I meet lots of interesting cats

Cats of all shapes and sizes in many different guises…

Using simple rhyming terms but very clever, detailed illustrations to completely engage the reader, this is a brilliant book for all cat-lovers and all ages.  For the Mat Cat is not a modest moggy curled up on a rug in front of the fire as you might expect, but a very fit, energetic yoga expert!  The Rat Cat hasn’t caught something nasty to leave at the front door but an echo of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

While young readers will love being able to read it for themselves because of the simple rhyming pattern, it is drawing the connections between the words and the pictures that adds depth, humour and a storyline that has the most comforting ending. Author and illustrator first met when Harvey taught Scott at school and that relationship shines through this book as though Scott knew that Harvey would never intend for a Fat Cat to be a self-satisfied feline surrounded by dead mice. 

Adorable in itself, and never written to be an instructional text, nevertheless this is one that could be shared with a class focusing on phonics and word families (don’t get me started…) but in a fun way where the children search out other -at words and then use their imaginations to illustrate them in surprising ways.   Or just re-interpret the words in the story.  Either way, they will not only learn a common sound for the -at combination but also start to look at character and how that can be expressed in the details of an illustration.  Can what has happened to Scat Cat be any more obvious even though there are but three words on the page???  The cues and clues offered through the pictures in a picture book are a critical, integral part of the child’s early language and reading development and texts like there that require a focus on both are an essential part of any book collection. 

 

Go Home, Cat!

Go Home, Cat!

Go Home, Cat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go Home, Cat!

Sonya Hartnett

Lucia Masciullo

Puffin, 2022

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

9781760899493

When Nicholas finds a silver coin while he is playing in the garden, his first thoughts are that he can buy his favourite liquorice with it. So he sets off for the shops – the reader can follow his journey on the map on the endpages – only to discover that his beloved cat is following him.  No matter how often he says ,”Go home, Cat,” the cat keeps following. He crosses the road carefully but just as he pushes open the sweet shop door, he sees Cat stuck in the middle of the road, a very dangerous place to be…

Celebrating nothing more than the love and bond between a boy and his pet, this is a heart-warming, almost old-fashioned story that harks back to an era that perhaps many of its target audience are unfamiliar with.  For who among them can remember when there were little sweet shops in the main street, their windows filled with all sorts of delights and the anticipation of what to choose on the rare occasion there was money to spare, being as exciting as the purchase itself?  OH&S inspectors would be down like a ton of jaffas on such a place now, but this story took me back to Mary Gray’s lolly shop (and her fabulous fudge) in the Whitcombe & Tomb’s arcade in my childhood Christchurch, aided and abetted by Masciullo’s artistry which takes us back to a different time! How did we survive being offered handmade lollies in jars and trays, carefully scooped into white paper bags, sealed with a twist? Definitely dreaming with eyes open, here!

A companion story to Come Down, Cat, this is a nostalgic trip down memory lane that needs to be shared between grandparent and grandchild. 

 

Cat & Cat Adventures: The Quest for Snacks

Cat & Cat Adventures: The Quest for Snacks

Cat & Cat Adventures: The Quest for Snacks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cat & Cat Adventures: The Quest for Snacks

Susie Yi

HarperCollins, 2022

96pp., graphic novel, RRP $A14.99

9780063083806

One day when their human leaves for work, Squash and Ginny find themselves in the most unfortunate predicament: without snacks. With a little help from a magical portal, the two cats embark on a quest to find ingredients for a potion that will produce unlimited goodies.

At first, their mission doesn’t seem so tough. It takes them on a boat race across Mewmaid Ocean and a hot air balloon ride over Mount Lava. But when the cats reach the Enchanted Rain Forest to gather enchanted rainwater, the last item on their list, their mission runs dry. . . It turns out it hasn’t rained in the Enchanted Rain Forest in weeks! 

Can Squash and Ginny get to the bottom of what’s causing this dry spell and secure the final ingredient they need Or have Squash and Ginny taken their last bite . . . for good?

Ever since comics, and their more sophisticated cousins, graphic novels, have been readily available there has been debate about their validity as reading material, particularly in schools.  Despite their popularity with students, there is controversy over whether they are “real reading” and so to offer a story in graphic novel format that is clearly aimed at young readers may spark discussion, if not debate.  While I, as teacher, reviewer, parent and grandparent, have no qualms about the format being one who believes that anything that includes text is available to read, the dichotomy is whether those who have the skills to bring all that is necessary to reading this story, will be engaged by a plot most suited for young readers.  Obviously, there are those who are very young who will be able to manage it, but to me, there is a disconnect between the target audience of the narrative and those with the wherewithal to get the most out of it.  So while there is clearly a demand for graphic novels, could the story have been presented in a different format and thus reach more readers?

For those faced with the dilemma of the inclusion of this format in general into their collections, the following articles were shared in a recent discussion on a forum for teacher librarians…

Understanding Comics

Why Graphic Novels Are Storytelling Quicksand for Reluctant Readers (In a Good Way)

Graphic Novels for Kids: Classroom Ideas, Booklists, and More

Cat Problems

Cat Problems

Cat Problems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cat Problems

Jory John

Lane Smith

Walker, 2021

48pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781529506136

What could a pampered house cat possibly have to complain about?

Just like most cats, this cat lives an extremely comfortable life. But he has his problems, too… The sun spot he’s trying to bathe in just won’t stop moving. The nosy neighbour squirrel just can’t seem to mind its own business. And don’t even get him started on the monster that is the vacuum cleaner! It’s an absolute menace! Will this cat ever find the silver lining? 

The creators of both Penguin Problems and Giraffe Problems  have teamed up again with this new story that not only entertains but, like the others, has a subtle sub-text that is just right for these times.  Because while it has been an inside-cat for eight years and longs for a change of scenery, the squirrel has a different perspective on the outdoors and tells the cat so. Instead of being hand-fed in a warm cosy, exclusive setting, it has to share its tree, be out in all weathers and continually forage for its food. So while we might be tired of this pandemic and all its restrictions, there are those in other places who have it much tougher.  The grass is not necessarily greener… And while life, particularly misery and grief, is not a competition it is useful to view things through a different lens at times so we can be grateful for what we have. Even if we can’t get our favourite takeaway chicken right now because of supply chain issues, what would it be like to not even know if and when you are going to have another meal at all?

This a particularly relatable story for our young readers, not only because they have experienced the cat’s frustration of being confined, but because many of them will have their own cats and will have seen the behaviours that John and Smith so clearly articulate in words and pictures. But it might also give pause for thought – even though the preferred option is for cat-owners to keep their pets indoors these days, is that fair on a cat whose origins are wild and whose instincts are to be outdoors?

As with Penguin Problems and Giraffe Problems, the reader is once again encouraged to view particular situations through the perspective of others, a skill that helps develop both empathy and compassion while making them more aware of the impact of their own actions on others.  A powerful trilogy in the mindfulness collection. 

 

Winston and the Indoor Cat

Winston and the Indoor Cat

Winston and the Indoor Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winston and the Indoor Cat

Leila Rudge

Walker Books, 2021

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

9781760652609

Winston is an outdoor cat and because that’s all he has ever known, it suits him perfectly.  Then he spies the Indoor Cat and thinks that it is trapped so he devises a plan to free it so it, too, can enjoy the outdoors as he does.  But the Indoor Cat soon learns that it prefers the indoors – can the two ever be friends?

In the vein of the old story of the town mouse and the country mouse, this is a story that introduces the concept of being able to be friends even if you have differences in beliefs, values and habits.  Both the simple but powerful text and the gentle illustrations in their subtle palette convey a tone of harmony even though the cats are distinctly different.  

A good one for the beginning of the school year when new classes are formed and friendships forged even though everyone is a unique individual. 

 

 

Marcie Gill and the Caravan Park Cat

Marcie Gill and the Caravan Park Cat

Marcie Gill and the Caravan Park Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcie Gill and the Caravan Park Cat

Monica McInerney

Danny Snell

Puffin, 2021

256pp.,  hbk., RRP $A19.99

 9781760894139

The Christmas break is not working out for Marcie Gill the way she expected or intended.  Her family own the caravan park at Snorkel Bay, SA but rather than being the idyllic time of past summers, this time her mum and dad have had a big argument and her dad is living in one of the empty caravans, her beloved Gran has had a fall, broken her hip and is slowly recovering in hospital and there are big financial worries as well.

Marcie, like most 10-year-olds, prefers things to be predictable but they’re not helped by Fred, her younger brother that we all know and may even be, or Jemima, her tennis-mad older sister who has all the wisdom and arrogance of a new teen but is still just a kid.  It seems Marcie’s only peace comes when she is visiting George, Gran’s beloved cat who has stayed on in Gran’s caravan. However, after a visit to her Gran who gives her a ‘wishing stone”, a treasured family heirloom, things begin to change, starting with George the cat being able to answer Marcie’s questions…

McInerney has turned all her skill and experience in writing for adults in crafting this charming story for children combining a relatable family with all its foibles and flaws with just a teensy bit of magic so it straddles the real-life/fantasy fence just as its intended audience does.  Even the sceptics can suspend their belief to accept the wisdom of George but can argue that the wishing stone is perhaps what Marcie believes rather than having special powers. Because George can only speak if Marcie asks him a question, McInerney has used a smart technique that enables the reader to get inside Marcie’s head as she ponders some questions and articulates others, demonstrating that sometimes adults underestimate not only just how much this age observes of the relationships and events around them but how much they deserve an explanation so they don’t continue to blame themselves or fix what can’t be fixed. While the wishing stone plays its part in the narrative, it also helps us realise that wishes don’t necessarily come true through magic – we can make them come true with some thought, logic, and application. 

Deep thoughts for a book that is, above all, a delightful, well-written read that will resonate with so many, particularly those who have spent time in a caravan park and who will be able to visualise Marcie’s life. The addition of Claude and Helen to the cast adds even more reality, especially Claude’s shyness being overcome by the “public” life of the typical park.

A great read-aloud to start the new school year and to encourage students to set some goals and then develop some plans to achieve them.  

 

 

The Best Cat, the Est Cat

The Best Cat, the Est Cat

The Best Cat, the Est Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Cat, the Est Cat

Libby Hathorn

Rosie Handley

State Library of NSW, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.95

9781925831191

Situated n the heart of Sydney on the corner of Macquarie Street and Shakespeare Place since 1826, the State Library of NSW is the oldest library in Australia.  And among its bigg-est, small-est, and strang-est items is a secret cat with magical powers that make it and its followers invisible.  And so young readers are taken on a special journey around the library -to the reading room which is the booki-est place; to the art gallery where ghosts might come alive; to  the stacks, seven stories below street level, where there are stories, poems and pictures from near and far as well all sorts of curios telling the story of this country;  to all parts of the library revealing its treasures both visible and not. The cat introduces them to the biggest, the smallest, the strangest, the rarest and the gluggiest objects, shows them secret places and spaces and ontroduces them to some of the workers.

Using clever rhyme and superlative language and illustrations which are a blend of collage, digital artwork and sketching, the cat explores all the corners of this institution finally revealing itself to be none other than Trim, the cat that helped Matthew Flinders put Australia on the map.  And all the items that are featured in the story are given their own brief explanation in the final pages not only encouraging demonstrating the broad spectrum of items on offer but encouraging further exploration.

Any NSW resident who has a public library card can access the State Library’s collections and so introducing young readers to all that is on offer opens up one of the finest collections of books (end to end, they would stretch 140km), letters, journals, paintings, photographs, maps and objects that they can access for free to assist with whatever investigation they are undertaking.

The Best Cat even has its own web presence with teachers’ notes and a competition offering the opportunity  to win a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Library with author Libby Hathorn and illustrator Rosie Handley.  

This is the Library’s first foray into publishing children’s books and it has set an extremely high bar. 

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.