When you’re set in your ways, little changes can really throw you.
Ethel the black-and-white cat is old and fat. Each day she sits on the porch and surveys her surroundings, monitoring the weather, chasing a few ants, and rolling on her favorite piece of sidewalk. “It wasn’t easy being Ethel, but she was good at it.” Then one afternoon, rolling on her sidewalk leaves her covered in blue chalk. The other cats comment on her new look, and that makes Ethel feel blue. She hides inside until she spies Fluffy, who, though usually white, is pink. Fluffy joins Ethel in her daily routines, and this time sidewalk rolling makes them both rainbow-colored. Ethel is still old and fat, but only sometimes white and black; with her young companion, she’s happy with that. Reinhardt’s tale of routine interrupted is a quiet one that highlights the power of friendship. When the other cats comment on Ethel’s new color, none says anything negative, but it makes her self-conscious. The final, wordless illustration of the whole troupe of them covered in rainbow chalk dust and a knowing smile passing between Ethel and Fluffy shows her confidence rebuilt. Watercolor-and-ink illustrations are scratchy and smeary and quite detailed (Fluffy has his eye on Ethel from afar from the start). Ethel’s corpulence is exaggerated by comically skinny and stubby legs, but her comfort with herself keeps the depiction from feeling mocking.
Ethel may not win any cat marathons, but she’ll win hearts young and old. (Picture book. 3-8)