cover image Dear Stray

Dear Stray

Kirsten Hubbard, illus. by Susan Gal. Penguin/Paulsen, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-5931-1000-3

At a feline adoption event, plenty of kittens are “fluff and fuzz and floof.” But the narrator, a brooding child portrayed with brown skin and black hair, senses a soulmate in a “sticky, scratchy, spiky” orange tiger cat. “We all feel spiky sometimes. And when I saw so much fury in your furry face,” writes Hubbard (Watch the Sky), making a picture book debut, “I thought maybe we needed each other.” Digitally assembled watercolor and ink illustrations from Gal (The Tower of Life) movingly reinforce this prickly kinship via emphatic brushstrokes and dramatic hues. Between the child and “Dear Stray,” the relationship can prove a rocky one. While the child empathizes with the cat expressing its inner tiger, its reactions also seem to heartily reflect the child’s own arm’s-length relationship with the world (“All the world’s a cage when you’re a cat with the heart of a tiger,” they say before hissing at a sibling). A day spent together in the calm of the outdoors, followed by a few scary hours when the kitten goes missing, enables each to let down their guard and realize comfort and vulnerability: “I like you pointy,” says the child with a quiet smile as the kitten cuddles contentedly, “but I love you purring.” Ages 3–7. Illustrator’s agent: Gail Gaynin, Morgan Gaynin. (Sept.)