cover image THE BIG MEOW


Elizabeth Spires, , illus. by Cynthia Jabar. . Candlewick, $15.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-0679-4

Little Cat, an ever-hopeful orange fluffball, wants desperately to belong to the band of neighborhood cats, but is ostracized for his "loud as a lion's roar" meow. "Little Cat, Little Cat, go away! Scat!... Your meow makes the sidewalk shake. It gives us a headache." In contrast to the quaint and hopeful tone of Spires's The Mouse of Amherst, this attenuated tale's effort at friskiness falls flat with some tired puns and uninspired rhyme: "We're proud of your meow, so big and so loud. It's purrr-fect!" his mother reassures the pitiable puss. Jabar's (Daddies Are for Catching Fireflies) rosy backdrops and fuzzy-edged felines fail to energize the story, as does the deployment of the word "meow," which stretches across the spreads in a large, jagged font. While children may empathize with the snubbing that Little Cat endures at the paws of his peers, the resolution is problematic. Little Cat's rowdy mewing meets with approval only after it sends Bruno the bulldog "clear into the next town" and inspires Little Cat's newfound friends to ask, "Now how about chasing ALL the dogs away?" The acceptance Little Cat earns is not enough to turn around a tedious story, and the message seems murky—it's okay to be yourself, but only when it serves others. Ages 3-7. (Apr.)