cover image PIZZA KITTENS


Charlotte Voake, . . Candlewick, $15.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-1622-9

A cat family melts down whenever dinner rolls around: Can this mealtime be saved? It certainly doesn't look promising. Rendering her wiry cats with eager, bright eyes and tense, upright postures, Voake comically conveys the anxiety and frustration of a family determined to sit down together and enjoy a pleasant meal. Mom can't seem to make anyone happy with her menu choices: "Fish sticks—your favorite!" she says. "Not my favorite," replies one kitten. "I wanted baked beans," says another. "Oh no, not salad!" cry the three feline siblings in unison a few beats later. Dad's subsequent attempt at helming a civilized repast ("The next evening began well," the author writes ominously) degenerates into a whine-fest and sodden pea disaster. Voake gives her readers a front-row seat for these gastronomic train-wrecks. Most of the spreads resemble a stage set, as if the audience is sitting just a few feet in front of the cats' dining room table. Her distilled settings and electrified ink lines exude the edgy energy of an onlooker who is trying to record the action as it unfolds and can capture only the most telling details and emotions. As for the ending, Voake, a clearheaded observer of family dynamics, concludes with yet one more kitten mishap. But by serving up a conciliatory pizza ("Our favorite!" squeal the kittens) she also reassures readers that the family will endure to dine together again. Ages 3-5. (May)