TOESTOMPER AND THE CATERPILLARS

Cuddly illustrations accompany a weak, pointless story of one character’s transition from tough guy to tenderheart. Toestomper and his friends the Rowdy Ruffians, a rough-and-tough band of rodent and reptile characters, like to act “mean, rude, and disgusting.” When Toestomper stumbles upon a bush of caterpillars, he stomps the bush flat, leaving the caterpillars homeless. Toestomper’s change of heart is without logic or motivation; he uncharacteristically offers them water and a soft bed, and adopts them as new friends, to the disgust of his longtime pals. The mixed message of the finale implies that Toestomper and his new pals always cheat at cards in order to beat the Rowdy Ruffians. The mediocre thinking behind the story outweighs any charm found in the illustrations; the contrast between the cozy, pet-like animals and their bullying behavior is funny, but it’s an effect that is wasted here. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-91168-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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HOW MANY CANDLES?

PLB 0-688-16259-2 Time is relative, as Griffith’s pleasingly droll story makes clear, especially when a cat, a dog, a turtle, and a couple gnats get together to compare longevity. The dog, Alex, has made a cake for his friend, Robbie, a boy turning ten who never appears in these pages. A cat notes that Robbie’s years equal about 70 of hers, while a turtle figures that the same number equals about 8 of his years, because he can live to be 100. Two gnats buzz in to check on the doings, and they can’t even begin to comprehend the very notion of ten years—“ ‘Well, they’re gnats,’ said the cat. ‘Ten years to a boy is one billion years to a gnat.’ “ As Alex tries to determine how many candles are needed for each new configuration, the cat sniffs the cake: “This seems to be made of dog biscuits,” and the higher mathematics are put on the back burner while some sheer tomfoolery comes to the fore. This is a delightful exploration of dry humor and number-juggling, accompanied by some elegantly funny artwork. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16258-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Greenwillow

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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WHERE IS THAT CAT?

PLB 0-7868-2399-2 Miss Perkins goes out in the snow to get her mail and brings back a stray cat. Naming it Fitz, because that is the sound it made when it sneezed, Miss Perkins tries not to get too attached to the stray, and runs an ad that reads: “Wanted: Good home for fluffy cat named Fitz.” Fitz, however, does not want to be adopted by anyone other than Miss Perkins, so he mysteriously disappears whenever someone answers the ad. Fitz finds his way into Miss Perkins’s heart by jumping up on her lap and licking the tip of her nose, sleeping at the foot of her bed to keep her feet warm, and finally chasing a mouse out of her home. With that final act, Miss Perkins finds Fitz to be a perfectly remarkable cat. Bright and finely detailed illustrations show clearly why the cat would not leave; the elderly woman’s home is as snug as they come in the detailed illustrations. Children will love this simple story of a love match forged by destiny, and aided by the occasional well-timed disappearance. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-7868-0457-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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