Kirkus Reviews QR Code
CAT HAT by Michelle Knudsen


Road to Reading: Mile 1

by Michelle Knudsen & illustrated by Amanda Haley

Age Range: 5 - 7

Pub Date: July 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-307-26115-7
Publisher: Golden Books/Random

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)