Simple, relatable cat-centered tales and childlike illustrations add up to a cozy debut.

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THE CLYDESIDE CATS

A debut short story collection for children spins tales of Scottish cats learning life lessons.  

Set in various locales along the Scotland’s River Clyde, this pleasant book features six short stories, each featuring an idiosyncratic cat engaged in a mild adventure. Each feline is named for a color (Rhuari Red Cat, Olivia Orange Cat, Ya Yellow Cat, and so on), which determines the book’s graphic design: white pages of text, each outlined in dots that correspond to each cat’s hue. The accompanying, uncredited illustrations are sweet and bright, and they have the untutored but charming appearance of children’s art. Members of the book’s young target audience will have no trouble relating to the felines, who observe and react to their adventures from a childlike perspective. Rhuari Red Cat, for example, is certain that he’s “big, fearsome, and very, very scary” enough to ignore his mother’s warning that he’s too little to go hunting for food away from his home. He feels differently after he has unsuccessful encounters with trash bins and a garbage truck (which he sees as a “monster”). This and other stories are all presented with a light, gentle touch, and they feature pleasant messages involving friendship, empowerment, and the cozy security of home. For example, Ya Yellow Cat attends her owner’s ballet class and, through observation and practice, realizes her dream of becoming a graceful dancer; fire-station resident Peter Purple Cat takes a break from his official mouse-catching job for a too-exciting outing on a fire truck; vegetarian Bobby Blue Cat, who only eats tomatoes, fails at fishing but finds common ground with his meat-eating feline neighbors; and Gertie Green Cat ventures out of her “beautiful little house by the Firth of Clyde” to say hello to the blue sea, the green hills, and the golden sun—and after receiving no reply, she returns to the place she likes best: her owner’s lap. 

Simple, relatable cat-centered tales and childlike illustrations add up to a cozy debut.

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5246-6743-6

Page Count: 84

Publisher: AuthorHouseUK

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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THE SNAIL AND THE WHALE

Like an ocean-going “Lion and the Mouse,” a humpback whale and a snail “with an itchy foot” help each other out in this cheery travelogue. Responding to a plaintive “Ride wanted around the world,” scrawled in slime on a coastal rock, whale picks up snail, then sails off to visit waters tropical and polar, stormy and serene before inadvertently beaching himself. Off hustles the snail, to spur a nearby community to action with another slimy message: “SAVE THE WHALE.” Donaldson’s rhyme, though not cumulative, sounds like “The house that Jack built”—“This is the tide coming into the bay, / And these are the villagers shouting, ‘HOORAY!’ / As the whale and the snail travel safely away. . . .” Looking in turn hopeful, delighted, anxious, awed, and determined, Scheffler’s snail, though tiny next to her gargantuan companion, steals the show in each picturesque seascape—and upon returning home, provides so enticing an account of her adventures that her fellow mollusks all climb on board the whale’s tail for a repeat voyage. Young readers will clamor to ride along. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-8037-2922-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2004

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