In his latest picture book, Bergmann (The Curse of the Baskervilles, 2015, etc.) challenges readers to guess the surprise that frightens a brave cat on a stormy night.
A fierce thunderstorm wakes Sharkie the cat in the middle of what turns out to be “the most terrifying night of my life.” With all the hubbub, “no sense in trying to go back to sleep now,” he thinks. Sharkie stumbles through a dark house lit only in flashes by the lightning, making his way to his litter box on the first floor. Despite the noise of the storm, the burned-out light, and the icy cold floor, he insists he’s not scared, not until he feels something grabbing him with its claws. Sharkie races back to his owner’s bedroom, determined not to let the thing get him. He’s even ready to sacrifice his owner to the monster—“maybe it will take him instead!” Bergmann’s story demands to be read aloud, with plenty of sound effects highlighted in bold: the ka-boom of the thunder, the rat-a-tat-tat of rain hitting the window, even the buzzzzz of the fluorescent light. Soriano’s full-color art complements the text, infusing the rooms Sharkie passes through with spooky, cartoonish atmosphere. Kids will giggle at the creepy photos decorating the hallway and the poor, bedraggled dog shut outside in the storm, pawing at the door to come in. (They may feel sorry for him, too, although Sharkie certainly doesn’t.) Sketches of rain and lightning against a teal background enliven even the pages without illustrations. As for whatever is chasing Sharkie, that’s left out of the picture until the very end, giving kids and grown-up readers alike the chance to guess what it could possibly be. (It’s quite a surprise.) The interactive element makes the book even more fun to read, and while the visual punch line at the end may mildly gross out some parents, it will likely leave young readers giggling.
A fun read-aloud for the kindergarten set.