Book Reviews; Picture Books

Millions of Cats

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Title: Millions of Cats

Bibliography:

Gág, Wanda. Ill. Gág, Wanda. 1928. Millions of Cats. New York. Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. ISBN 9780881035605.

Plot Summary:

A lonely elderly couple decide to get a cat, so the husband goes in search of the perfect cat.  In his search for the perfect cat, he gets a little carried away and brings home more than one cat.  This becomes a problem that eventually works itself out in an unexpected way.

Critical Analysis:

This well-illustrated book has the feeling of one of Aesop’s fables in that the main character has an understandable foible that presents a problem when he doesn’t pause to think of the consequences of his actions.  The story will keep the young reader turning the pages to see what happens, while underlying echoes of cause and effect; survival of the fittest; and the rewards of having an unassuming character are heard.  The black and white illustrations are simple and childlike, which could be used to encourage little ones to write and illustrate their own book. Overall, this book will appeal to young readers for the easy flow and repetitive words, and to older readers for the subtle treatment of various underlying problems stemming from very human actions.

Awards:

1929 Newbery Medal Honor Book

Lewis Carroll Shelf Award Book

Other Reviews:

goodreads

Anita Silvey’s Book a Day Almanac

Connections:

Depending on the age of the child, this read-aloud story book can provide a spring board for discussions on: the results of excess, overpopulation in an ecosystem, pride vs. humility, and loneliness.
 


Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa

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Title: Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: Rain or Shine

Bibliography:

Silverman, Erica. Ill. Lewin, Betsy. 2008. Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: rain or shine. Harcourt.  ISBN 9780152053840.

Plot Summary:

Cowgirl Kate, a very industrious young girl, rides her horse as she does the chores on the ranch.  Her talking horse, Cocoa, would rather play and race the wind.  Kate reminds Cocoa that the work must be done before it is time to play.  After the chores are interrupted by a coming storm, Kate finds out that Cocoa is afraid of the elements of the storm.  Later, when Kate decides it is safe to go out, Cocoa is convinced that getting wet won’t hurt him and refuses to wear his rain gear, that is, until he gets too wet.  Cocoa learns his lesson, the sun comes out and the story ends on an upbeat note.

Critical Analysis:

Rain or Shine is the fourth in the Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa series.  Illustrated by Betsy Lewin, this picture/chapter book would be a great read aloud book to students in grades one and two.  The reader identifies with Cocoa when the horse wants to play, but Cowgirl Kate reminds him that work comes first.  The watercolor illustrations are large enough to share with a group, while the font is well chosen for its readability and size.  As a beginning chapter book, the chapter breaks are well placed as each chapter addresses a different aspect of the characters’ day.

The paintings keep the story moving as they successfully indicate both emotion and movement.  The bright color choices keep the story upbeat, even when the horse becomes frightened of thunder.  The attention to detail in the background provides plenty to look at for a non-reader, and gives strength to the setting.

Other Reviews:

Powells City of Books

Junior Library Guild

Connections:

Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa is a good introduction to chapter books.  As the fourth in a series, it is also a good way to introduce the concept of books that use the same characters and story-lines that build from book to book. 

Discussion starters: Work before play, fear of weather, pretending to be sick to avoid doing something new, wearing appropriate clothing no matter how it looks, and appreciating life after the storms have passed.