cover image THE SCAREDY CATS


Barbara Bottner, , illus. by Victoria Chess. . S&S, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-83786-9

Whenever Mr. and Mrs. Scaredy Cat contemplate doing something, they fret so much ("All kinds of things can happen") that they end up doing nothing. The plump Mrs. Scaredy Cat doesn't close the window when she's cold because it might fall on her fingers. Mr. Scaredy Cat doesn't wake the baby because he's afraid she'll knock him over. Bottner's (Bootsie Barker Bites) premise is funny, but the text gets repetitious and the resolution seems pat: Baby Scaredy Cat rallies her parents by asking, "If all kinds of things can happen, can good things happen too?" Fortunately, Chess's (A Hippopotamusn't) densely saturated, wittily composed watercolors restore the drollery. The pictures depict not only what really happens to the three cats, but also what they imagine might happen. For example, Mr. Scaredy Cat is shown holding cheery Baby in his arms, and when she suggests that he toss her into the air, a bubble above his head illustrates his fears that he might throw the child too high or not be able to catch her. Chess's felines run the gamut of emotions in high style, and she furnishes their home with suitably catlike accoutrements. Along with inviting, cozy details (a wood-beamed ceiling, bright textiles and overstuffed sofas), she includes a fish-shaped planter, a bird in a bell jar, etc. As with Henry Allard and James Marshall's The Stupids, children will enjoy being braver than the Scaredy Cats themselves. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)