Alfie (The Big Alfie Out of Doors Storybook, 1992, etc.) is back, and this time he wants to cheer up his neighbor, Bob MacNally, whose old gray cat, Smoky, has died. Bob's birthday is coming up, but his daughter Maureen says he's so down he doesn't want any presents, not even cards. It's Alfie's idea to make a surprise party for him. A flurry of shopping and cakebaking ensues, but the best surprise is Maureen's present--a kitten. She entrusts it to Alfie's care for the night before the party, and he is proud to play such an important role. This warm-hearted slice of real life is as good as any of the Alfie books; it is from the boy's perspective that readers see that Smoky was not a very satisfactory cat, making ""bad-tempered noises"" whenever Alfie picked him up. Alfie comprehends, however, how much Bob misses the cat, and finds the finality of Smoky's death sad. Hughes's trademark illustrations capture, as always, the homey details of family life in a neighborhood where the kindness of others plays a large part in everyday events.