Ed Boxall, . . Candlewick, $14.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-1767-7

Francis, an unusual cat, hunts carrots instead of birds and adores bubble baths. He's also exceptionally fearful, especially of "the whispery hissy monster he hears in the tree in the garden on stormy nights." When Francis mistakenly believes that the monster has kidnapped his young owner, Ben, he bravely attempts a nighttime rescue—and ends up getting rescued himself by the very same monster, who turns out to be a big, wild but kindly black feline. Without much development, Francis's relationship to Ben may feel perfunctory to readers, but British author/illustrator Boxall hits all the right visual notes with his bold shapes and vibrant colors. The book takes on a delicious Halloween spookiness when the frazzled marmalade feline (his whiskers looking like lightning bolts of nervous energy) ventures out into blackest night to find Ben. The wild black cat is a striking deux ex machina, created from a chalky outline that makes him look like a half-relief of the night sky. Readers will instantly cotton to Francis himself, because he looks so much like a creation of their own—rendered with large, gentle eyes (which match Ben's), a blocky, almost schematic physique and enthusiastically applied orange paint. Ages 3-6. (Sept.)