A quirky story about a cat with a mind of her own.

How BJ Diana Came to Live at the Z House

An animal-loving family meets a spunky cat in an illustrated comedy of errors.

The Z house has always been a haven for wayward critters, but with seven fish, three cats, one dog and a few backyard raccoons, Mom Z and her son, Noah, have decided that the house is full. When a stray cat starts to pay visits to the yard, Mom Z tries to shoo her away, but the little cat is stubborn. Before Mom Z knows it, the cat has claimed a favorite spot in the Z family's lawn chair, and she quickly becomes a regular visitor to the backyard. Mom Z and Noah are unable to locate the cat's owners, so they decide to have her fixed. A few days after her surgery, the cat escapes, and Mom Z and Noah are frantic—until they get a phone call from the vet. They soon learn that the cat had “escaped” back to her owner, who believes the surgical scar is the result of alien interference. Mom Z and Noah are willing to relinquish ownership, but the cat has other ideas, and it's not long before she wanders back to the Z’s yard. Before long, Mom Z and Noah find themselves entangled in a web of not two, but three prospective owners, and it will be up to the cat to decide which house to call home. Stommel and Czekalski's cartoonish illustrations perfectly match the tone of this wacky, upbeat children's book, which is full of odd surprises and strange turns of events. Though the plot twists set the book apart, some of the strangest moments—such as the owner's belief that her cat was operated on by aliens—are mentioned so quickly that they feel out of place and jarring. Zanville (How the Dog Came to the Z House, 2013, etc.) is careful to maintain a frank and child-friendly tone as she explains the surgery and visits to the vet's office, but particularly sensitive readers may be put off by the graphic illustration of the scar and by the cat's willingness to leave her owners.

A quirky story about a cat with a mind of her own.

Pub Date: July 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475140774

Page Count: 38

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2014

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Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

CARPENTER'S HELPER

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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A pleasant holiday spent with a perfectly charming character.

SPOOKY POOKIE

One of Boynton's signature characters celebrates Halloween.

It's Halloween time, and Pookie the pig is delighted. Mom helps the little porker pick out the perfect Halloween costume, a process that spans the entire board book. Using an abcb rhyme scheme, Boynton dresses Pookie in a series of cheerful costumes, including a dragon, a bunny, and even a caped superhero. Pookie eventually settles on the holiday classic, a ghost, by way of a bedsheet. Boynton sprinkles in amusing asides to her stanzas as Pookie offers costume commentary ("It's itchy"; "It's hot"; "I feel silly"). Little readers will enjoy the notion of transforming themselves with their own Halloween costumes while reading this book, and a few parents may get some ideas as well. Boynton's clean, sharp illustrations are as good as ever. This is Pookie's first holiday title, but readers will surely welcome more.

A pleasant holiday spent with a perfectly charming character. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-553-51233-5

Page Count: 18

Publisher: Robin Corey/Random

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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