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Cats Are a Liquid

Rebecca Donnelly, illus. by Misa Saburi. Holt, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-250-20659-6

Inspired by an actual scientific paper, this amusing STEM picture book explores whether and how cats are a liquid “based on the way cats... fill up any container they squeeze themselves into. As Donnelly’s loose, easy rhymes (“Cats slop./ Cats plop./ Cats drizzle,/ slosh,/ flop”) playfully probe the proposition, cleverly riffing on liquid’s qualities, the book’s humor is largely visual. Digital illustrations by Saburi fully exploit the investigation with screwball scenes of kitties stuffed into beakers, lying melted in a patch of sun, drifting through the sky like mist, and wreaking classic cat havoc as they’re tested by an inclusive group of child scientists. As Donnelly and Saburi display, liquid-ish felines make delightful, funny subjects for scientific research and picture books alike. Back matter includes a recipe for cornstarch “oobleck” and further information about the science joke at the heart of the book. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/11/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Everybody Says Meow

Constance Lombardo. HarperCollins, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-268988-7

“Welcome to that magical time when everybody says, ‘Meow!’ ” begins a wide-eyed, toothy cat. As a clowder gathers (“MEOW!”), a dog peeking around the page’s edge immediately foils plans with a “Woof.” Quickly adapting to the hound’s verbal limitations, the cat announces a new plan: “Everybody says, ‘Meow.’/ One guy says, ‘Woof.’ ” The only problem? The frog that shows up out of nowhere (“DID SOMEBODY SAY, ‘RIBBIT’?”). It’s easy to see where things are going, and when the lead feline declares the moment “that magical time when everybody says whatever they want,” the colorful crew joyously celebrates with the noise of their choice—until another newcomer arrives with a page-emptying sound of its own. Working in pen, ink, and watercolor, Lombardo’s bright scenes focus all the attention on her cast as they discover that not everybody says “meow”—and that more friends make things much more fun. Ages 4–8. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/11/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Lost Kitten

Leyla Torres, illus. by Ángeles Ruiz. Reycraft, $15.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4788-6867-5

In this simple tale of a stray kitten and a hopeful girl, Papa inadvertently brings a tabby kitten, “softer than cotton,” into the house with the groceries, and Emilia immediately asks to keep him. But Papa maintains they ask the neighbors if they’ve lost the feline first. As the two make their way around the area, kind residents helpfully offer supplies (“how about a stuffed mouse?”). But the family returns home to ask Mama, a boy and his mother have arrived, looking for a lost kitten of their own. In a cool palette, mixed-media illustrations by Ruiz add depth to the simple story, enlivening the text with dynamic forms, intricate architecture, and interesting angles. While the tale’s climax lasts for only a moment, the narrative serves as a warm testament to community. Ages 3–7. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/11/2019 | Details & Permalink

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How About a Night Out?

Sam Williams, illus. by Matt Hunt. Boxer, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-912757-14-5

“City cats, like city lights,/ Come out to play on city nights.” Williams and Hunt depict the nocturnal lives of urban felines in this jazzy rhyming story. Beneath a flat black night sky sparkling with yellow stars, a crew of cool cats “creep about.../ and sneak about,” appearing to have the run of things. In city scenes mostly devoid of humans, the sleek subjects sneak around a subway entrance, spin on a playground carousel, “swoon/ to the moon” atop a roof, and generally “have a night to sing about” that’s written in lively rhyme. Hunt’s illustrations move across a cityscape with the energy of his curious, prowling subjects. When day breaks, the kitties finally head home to catch some much-needed Zzzs, offering readers a break-of-day bedtime story for young nighttime dreamers. Ages 3–6. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/11/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Bodega Cat

Louie Chin. Pow!, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-57687-932-0

A cat named Chip takes readers through his day in this hip, comic-style picture book about a bodega’s role in a bustling city neighborhood. From the early morning deliveries with Dominican bodega proprietor Papi to the breakfast rush, taking inventory, and working the register, Chip—self-proclaimed “boss of this bodega”—has a paw in every aspect of the store’s operation. In the afternoon, Chip takes a break from supervising to romp and lounge with human brother Damian and the feline “boss” of a nearby Korean grocer, with whom Chip and family share a genial meal at day’s end. Chin’s attentive watercolor, gouache, and digital art features authentic city scenes, complete with piragua cart on the street corner and an inclusive mix of bodega visitors. A smart feline-centric introduction to an underappreciated N.Y.C. landmark institution: the corner bodega and its cat. Ages 3–5. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 10/11/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Stretchy McHandsome

Judy Schachner. Dial, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8037-4121-8

The youngest of nine feral felines, a likable cat named Stretchy—a “butterscotch boy” with one green eye and one blue—goes on a life-altering adventure in this rhyming tale. Hoping to take a holiday from his “cantankerous” siblings, Stretchy ventures out alone, leaving scratch marks all over town, visiting with his tiger cousins at the zoo, and more. While lying in a bookstore window, he is spotted by his human soulmate—a curly-haired girl named Beanie whose eyes match Stretchy’s—and the pair are so “smitten” they fall into a dual stretch. When the other McHandsomes, one kilt-clad, come after him, Stretchy’s exploits bring friendship into all of their lives. In Schachner’s carefully busy and frequently silly mixed-media scenes, Stretchy seems as cuddly—and as glad to find Beanie—as he is flexible. Ages 3–5. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/11/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Doodle Cat Wears a Cape

Kat Patrick, illus. by Lauren Farrell. Scribble, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-947534-98-8

With a tea towel for a cape, a striking red feline named Doodle Cat shows off “cool superpowers” such as saving a human (really a pillow), firing high-speed furballs, and becoming invisible (inside a box). But when none of these powers help him cheer up his friend, Pangolin, the feline takes a new approach. Wearing a tea towel, Pangolin is soon showing off: smelling everything (especially Doodle Cat’s toots), digging, and licking the Milky Way with a long curly tongue. “Together we are superfriends,” the pair declares, inviting others (including the reader) to don capes and join them in discovering their own unique powers. Bold, sketchlike illustrations accompany Doodle Cat’s childlike first-person narration (“I am Doodle Cat./ Look at my cape!”), and goofy scenes of the happy companions suggest that friendship, replete with costume, is the ultimate superpower. Ages 2–7. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/11/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Goodnight, Rainbow Cats

Bàrbara Castro Urío. Chronicle, $10.99 (26p) ISBN 978-1-4521-8213-1

A kaleidoscopic cast of 12 cats say goodnight in this contemporary interactive die-cut board book, winner of a 2019 Bologna Ragazzi Award. One by one, variously colored cats approach the cut-out door of a big white house. As each enters the home, a window appears on the next page, illuminated by the hue of the entrant settling in for bed. Featureless aside from white eyes, the kitties are simply drawn, making them suitable companions to Urio’s plain, repetitious narration: “Here comes Little Crimson Cat, yawning on her way.” The unfrilly approach rightly places all the emphasis on the book’s die-cut innovation—it’s magic to watch as the white house slowly transforms into a rainbow of slumbering felines. Ages up to 3. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/11/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Sean Awesome: The Dog Next Door

Jiwon Hwang, illus. by Sung Hong. Simply Read, $15.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-772290-32-5

In this second installment of the Sean Awesome series, blue-haired, animal-loving Sean confronts a first: a new canine neighbor, French bulldog Coco, who wears a red beret, appears to dislike him despite his best efforts (greetings, attempted hugs, offered snacks). Perturbed and preoccupied, Sean spies on Coco through a telescope. When he sees Coco enter the “International Dog School,” he appropriates a canine costume, sneaks in, and realizes that the hound may have “come from a foreign country” and perhaps “doesn’t understand what I’m trying to say.” After learning to say sit in several languages, Sean finds that the French—assis—lands him happy barks from the new neighbor. The text seems to ignore the idea that more than one language can be spoken in a single country, and Hwang’s unembellished text and Hong’s cut-paper art suggest an appeal to readers younger than the stated age range. A slight tale of friendship across language barriers. Ages 6–9. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/11/2019 | Details & Permalink

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What If My Dog Had Thumbs?

Mike Perry. Dottir, $19.95 (48p) ISBN 978-1-948340-09-0

Perry, an Emmy-winning graphic artist and animator for his work on Broad City, brings a lively, psychedelic energy to his debut children’s book. The titular question repeats throughout, followed by musings on the topic: “Would she walk around town shaking hands with all of her chums?/ Or bang on a drum, declaring in a hum, ‘I am a dog with thumbs!’ ” Printed in fluorescent inks and reminiscent of ’60s poster art, the illustrations feature a handsome, moplike pup with opposable thumbs engaged in the mundane (eating beans with a spoon) and the extraordinary (exploring space). Wordless spreads break up meandering stanzas, inviting the reader to soak in the surreal. While bumpy at times, Perry’s limerick-like tune makes for a diverting readaloud. Readers who have entertained existential questions about their pets will appreciate the absurd brainstorm. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 10/11/2019 | Details & Permalink

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