CAT HAT

ROAD TO READING: MILE 1

Emergent readers with tightly limited word lists are notoriously difficult to write, especially when two of the words are already firmly enshrined in the shadow of that extremely well-known cat in the striped hat. Knudsen (Dinosaur Days, not reviewed, etc.) does a credible job of creating a real story and an appealing main character, a cat named Ralph, with just a few simple words. Ralph seems to be living on his own in a big-city park in the winter, and he wants a cozy home of his own: someplace high, warm, and safe. He checks out some locations where he isn’t welcome (a baby’s pram and a squirrel family’s tree house), and then finds an ideal spot curled up on top of a bald man’s head, tied on with a striped scarf. Haley’s breezy watercolor and ink illustrations make this unlikely scenario believable, with a charming snow-covered park filled with strolling adults and children of different ethnic groups. Reading teachers may question the use of the name Ralph (with the non-decodable ph sound) and contractions at this beginning level of easy readers, as both these challenges are usually found farther along in structured reading programs. There is always a need in every library for the earliest beginning readers, and the attractive illustrations give this story extra warmth. Ralph might even find his way into story hours, paired up with that superstar cat or even with Jack Gantos’s Rotten Ralph (1976), a very different kind of cat. (Easy reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-307-26115-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Golden Books/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2001

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THE BEST CHEF IN SECOND GRADE

An impending school visit by a celebrity chef sends budding cook Ollie into a tailspin. He and his classmates are supposed to bring a favorite family food for show and tell, but his family doesn’t have a clear choice—besides, his little sister Rosy doesn’t like much of anything. What to do? As in their previous two visits to Room 75, Kenah builds suspense while keeping the tone light, and Carter adds both bright notes of color and familiar home and school settings in her cartoon illustrations. Eventually, Ollie winkles favorite ingredients out of his clan, which he combines into a mac-and-cheese casserole with a face on top that draws delighted praise from the class’s renowned guest. As Ollie seems to do his kitchen work without parental assistance, a cautionary tip or two (and maybe a recipe) might not have gone amiss here, but the episode’s mouthwatering climax and resolution will guarantee smiles of contentment all around. (Easy reader. 6-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-053561-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2007

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THE GIRL WHO LOVED WILD HORSES

            There are many parallel legends – the seal women, for example, with their strange sad longings – but none is more direct than this American Indian story of a girl who is carried away in a horses’ stampede…to ride thenceforth by the side of a beautiful stallion who leads the wild horses.  The girl had always loved horses, and seemed to understand them “in a special way”; a year after her disappearance her people find her riding beside the stallion, calf in tow, and take her home despite his strong resistance.  But she is unhappy and returns to the stallion; after that, a beautiful mare is seen riding always beside him.  Goble tells the story soberly, allowing it to settle, to find its own level.  The illustrations are in the familiar striking Goble style, but softened out here and there with masses of flowers and foliage – suitable perhaps for the switch in subject matter from war to love, but we miss the spanking clean design of Custer’s Last Battle and The Fetterman Fight.          6-7

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1978

ISBN: 0689845049

Page Count: -

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1978

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