Luckily, it’s impossible to have too many picture books about everyone’s favorite pets. These stories are fresh and funny and the illustrations are as irresistible as our best feline and canine pals.
Adderson, Caroline. Norman, Speak! illus. by Qin Leng. 32p. Groundwood. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781554983223.
PreS-Gr 2 –A boy visits the animal shelter in hopes of finding the perfect dog, but he is overwhelmed by the multitude of choices. Finally, he asks the shelter worker which one has been there the longest, and she leads him to Norman’s cage. Out pops a short little pup with no tail. Not having a tail is no disability for Norman. Instead, he wags his whole rear end. The family falls in love with him because he’s funny and friendly and he greets them at the door with a “funny-brown-hula-stump-wiggle-wag dance.” The boy tries to teach him the simplest tricks, but the canine just cocks his head and stares at him, and he decides that Norman may not have been the smartest dog at the shelter. Then, at the park one day, they meet a Chinese man who talks to Norman, and the dog does exactly what the man tells him. Norman’s former owners were Chinese! The family sets about learning a few commands to accommodate their new pet. Throughout this lovely story, it is clear that the boy and his parents love Norman just as he is. Simple ink drawings set against ample white space make the endearing dog come alive on paper. This title will be a surefire hit with children.
Gall, Chris. Dog vs. Cat. illus. by Chris Gall. 32p. Little, Brown. May 2014. Tr $17. ISBN 9780316238014. LC 2013015639.
PreS-Gr 2 –Starting with illustrations on the endpapers, readers know immediately that they are in for a treat with this picture book. On the same day, Mr. Buttons returns home with a “friendly-looking dog,” while Mrs. Buttons find the perfect “smart-looking cat.” Clearly, these newcomers are not going to get along, and each one sets out to make the other leave (“Dog rubbed some party balloons on the rug and stuck them to cat. Cat popped them with sharp claws, nearly giving Dog a heart attack. Cat filled Dog’s water bowl with hairballs. Dog poured the water over Cat’s head during naptime.”). The exaggerated traits of both animals are wonderful. Small details, such as the dogs at the animal shelter holding signs saying “I’ll be your best friend” and “I want to lick you!” are a hilarious contrast to the cats in the pet store window with signs such as, “And you are?” and “I’m kind of a big deal.” The colored-pencil illustrations are remarkable, and the animals’ dialogue, expressions, and body language are priceless, as is the funny conclusion. A terrific addition to any friendship or pet storytime.
Gantos, Jack. Rotten Ralph’s Rotten Family. illus. by Nicole Rubel. 48p. (Rotten Ralph Rotten Readers). Farrar. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374363536.
K-Gr 2 –Ralph’s fans will welcome this new addition, though the adventure rolls out in the usual way and predictably ends with the naughty feline showing a momentary display of sweetness. In this episode, Sarah has to decline a party invitation because she can’t find a single cat sitter in town willing to spend time with Ralph. His reputation has impacted his best friend’s life, and she sends him to his room, demanding that he change his ways. Ralph waxes nostalgic about the good old days when he lived with his own cat family. But a visit to the family farm reveals relatives just as rotten as he is and reinforces the fact that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Some readers may be perplexed by the difference between Ralph’s vividly depicted childhood memories and reality. The transformation makes sense only if one assumes that the pictures in Ralph’s mind are candy-coated, and this recognition may prompt some meaningful discussions about human behavior and also serve as a lesson in inference. Rubel’s signature cartoon illustrations contain all the humor one could want in this latest chapter book about the incorrigible yet charismatic cat.
Gravett, Emily. Matilda’s Cat. illus. by Emily Gravett. 32p. S. & S. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442475274; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442475281. LC 2012049731.
PreS-Gr 1 –The day Matilda put on her cat suit and made mischief of one kind and another, her aloof and rather skittish feline just said, “No.” Despite the child’s best efforts, Matilda is unable to engage her pet in playing with wool or boxes, climbing trees, or riding bikes. After a failed tea party, drawing session, and bedtime story, the youngster takes off her cat suit and gets ready for bed and finally captures the tabby’s attention. The energetic watercolor artwork is pure Gravett, with plenty of visual jokes and with characters—girl and cat—who express their feelings with every fiber of their being. For every overly exuberant youngster who has ever attempted to win the affections of a feline, this picture book offers reassurances that the friendship bond will most like occur but perhaps not on the child’s timetable. School Library Journal\
Huneck, Stephen. Sally Goes to Heaven. illus. by Stephen Huneck. 48p. Abrams. Apr. 2014. RTE $18.95. ISBN 9781419709692. LC 2013010063.
K-Gr 2 – In this final story about Sally, the black Labrador realizes that she is too tired to eat and lies down in the sun. The next morning, she wakes up in heaven. The remainder of the story relates the cheerful activities available to her in her new surroundings. No longer feeling pain in her joints, Sally can now “pounce and bounce” with other animals and enjoy her favorite treat of ice cream. She comments on these explorations in the same simple sentence structure evident in the previous books. While this tale is not as eventful as the earlier books, fans will still appreciate the attractive folk-art woodcuts. Done in black, tan, red, and green, they enhance both the solemnity and tranquility of Sally’s afterlife. The text is again in a bold black design on a white background, usually at the bottom of the page, which will aid those children who are just learning to follow words on a page. A picture frame is included on the final endpapers—it can be easily removed for library circulation. This title can help children remember the good times in both Sally’s or their own pet’s life.
Kenah, Katherine. Ferry Tail. illus. by Nicole Wong. 32p. Sleeping Bear. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781585368297. LC 2013024887.
PreS-Gr 2 –Walter enjoys being a ferry dog. Greeting passengers and posing with babies makes him feel loved, and keeping sea gulls off the deck is just plain fun. But on the day Walter notices Cupcake (the Captain’s cat) has taken his place as the chef’s bacon taster and the engineer’s entertainer, he runs off the ferry the first chance he gets. Life on land is no better, though, and when Walter discovers how difficult it is to make new friends, he realizes who he misses most and that sometimes, an adversary might become a good friend. Wong’s naturalistic drawings make it easy to sympathize with Walter and applaud for the spoiled cat as she helps him find his way home.