cover image Ethan and the Strays

Ethan and the Strays

John Sullivan, illus. by Hatem Aly. S&S/ Wiseman, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5344-7132-0

With touching sensitivity, Sullivan (Stanley’s Secret) creates a story about a child responsibly caring for stray felines. Each day on his walk to school with big brother Sam, Ethan encounters three kittens living in an alley. Yearning for a pet in a “no pets” household, Ethan names the kittens and discerns three distinct personalities: black and white Fluffy is curious, gray Misty is shy, and tiny tabby Dusty is bold. Ethan feeds them from his lunch box and worries about how they’ll stay warm in blustery, snowy weather, and with Sam’s assistance—the depth of their connection is one of the story’s quiet delights—joins the trap-neuter-return movement. Mixed-media cartoon art by Aly (Salat in Secret), which portrays the siblings with brown skin, walk readers through Ethan’s growing understanding of the kittens’ situation, tempering the tale’s instructional aspects with irresistible characterizations. Ethan’s bright eyes reflect a serious eagerness, and Sam exudes pragmatism and patience in a book that offers an affectionately realized vision of what one kid can do. An afterword concludes. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)