Catfish Kate and the Sweet Swamp Band

Sarah Weeks, Author, Elwood H. Smith, Illustrator , illus. by Elwood H. Smith. S&S/Atheneum $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4169-4026-5

Rocking out on her banjo, the bodacious Catfish Kate gradually adds members to her band (“Hum strum/ rattle-rattle/ tootle-ootle croon/ scritch-scratch/ zing zang/ underneath the moon”). But conflict arises when the girls' music interrupts the quiet that Skink and his Skunktail Boys need for reading. Smith (See How They Run ) adds plenty of comical visual details to his cartoonlike illustrations of the swampy nocturnal setting—flashlights attached to branches allow the skink and skunks to read, while band member Spider hangs by a thread to “scritch-scratch” a record. The rhythm of the narrative stumbles briefly when Weeks (Bunny Fun ) sets up the feud, which escalates until “Kate said, 'WAIT! There has to be a way/ for you to have your quiet, while we still get to play./ We have to find a compromise ,/ that's what we need to do.' ” A skunk asks, “What's a compromise?” but Weeks defines the term only by example—cattail fluff as earplugs lets the two groups coexist peaceably. Weeks's morality tale has bounce, but kids may remain confused about what a compromise entails (besides plugging one's ears). Ages 4–8. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/11/2009
Release date: 05/01/2009
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