February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

There’s a New Cat on the Scene | Beginning Readers

Get the latest SLJ reviews every month, subscribe today and save up to 35%.


redstarShea, Bob. Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret. illus. by Bob Shea. 56p. Disney. May 2015. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781484713785.

PreS-Gr 2 –Ballet Cat and Sparkles the Pony are great friends. One day, when choosing what to play, Sparkles picks making crafts. “Yay! Crafts!” says Ballet Cat, until she has second thoughts. She loves to leap and dance, and leaping with scissors is not a good idea. Then, Sparkles suggests checkers. “Yes! Checkers!” says Ballet Cat. But then she decides that their dance kicks might knock over the checkerboard. What about selling lemonade? “The lemonade will splash when we spin,” says Ballet Cat. There seems to be only one activity that goes with leaping, kicking, and spinning. “We could play ballet,” suggests Sparkles unenthusiastically. The problem is, they play ballet every day, and Ballet Cat is slow in noticing that Sparkles is not at all interested. Sparkles is acting glum and has a “secret secret,” namely that he sometimes does not like ballet. He is afraid that revealing this fact will mean they are no longer best friends. But Ballet Cat has a secret of her own. There is something that she loves even more than ballet: Sparkles. In the last panel, they are happily playing checkers. This early reader has simple, vivacious cartoon artwork done in inks with digital enhancements. Shea’s signature style and bright bold colors add to the fun. Although the text is somewhat sophisticated and the dialogue is entirely in word balloons, the humor and theme of friendship and sharing will have broad appeal beyond the beginning reader set. VERDICT Move over Elephant and Piggie!–Roxanne Burg, Orange County Public Library, CA

The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue:

Nolen, Jerdine. Bradford Street Buddies: Backyard Camp-Out. illus. by Michelle Henninger. 48p. (Green Light Readers). HMH. Sept. 2015. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780544368439; pap. $3.99. LC 2014006757.

PreS-Gr 2 –In this installment in the series, twins Jada and Jamal decide to explore the great outdoors when they discover camping supplies in their family’s garage. Along with their friends Josh and Carlita, the children organize a search party when their neighbor’s cat goes missing. The tension builds to one joyous reunion when they uncover the location of the missing feline. Ink and watercolor illustrations emphasize the warmth found in familiar relationships, and thin lines exude energy and excitement as the children take control of their surroundings. Background colors in shades of orange and blue convey the passage of time. Short chapters, heavy on dialogue, emphasize the growing relationships among friends and family, and clear, emphatic statements suit this selection for beginning readers ready for a slightly more developed story line. VERDICT This gentle narrative offers a few surprises and a delightful twist for newly independent readers.–Meg Smith, Cumberland County Public Library, Fayetteville, NC

Springett, Martin. Kate & Pippin: An Unlikely Friendship. photos by Isobel Springett. 32p. (My Readers). Square Fish. 2015. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781250055682; ebk. $3.99. ISBN 9781250055699.

K-Gr 2 –Animals lovers will delight in this early reader based on the picture book of the same name. Kate, a Great Dane, and Pippin, an orphaned fawn, become close companions after Pippin moves in with Kate’s family. Touching pictures illustrate their story and show Pippin growing from a tiny fawn into an adult doe. Kate acts as her surrogate mother, and the two enjoy frolicking in the yard together each afternoon. One night, Pippin runs off, which frightens Kate and her owner Isobel. The next morning Pippin returns to the house but spends every subsequent night outside, as she still is a wild deer. Readers will be delighted when Pippin returns home one day with two fawns of her own. Fans of other unlikely animal pairs—like elephant Tarra and Bella the dog, or Suryia the orangutan and Roscoe the dog—will revel in this warmhearted and cuddly story. VERDICT A solid choice for exploring friendship in storytime, or for kids who love true animal friendship tales.–Amy M. Laughlin, Darien Library, CT

This article was published in School Library Journal's May 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Diversity and Cultural Competency Training: Collections & RA

Do you want to ensure that your library’s collections are diverse, equitable, inclusive, and well-read?

Do you want to become a more culturally literate librarian and a more effective advocate for your community?

We've developed a foundational online course—with live sessions on February 28 & March 14—that will explore key concepts essential to cultivating and promoting inclusive and equitable collections.