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I was a kid running wild and free in the 1970s, and I find myself intrigued with the fiction written these days that takes place during that time period. It's a convenient time period, for sure. By this I mean that technology hadn't yet tethered us to our parents, and I'm assuming that most kids were like my sister and I -- running around the neighborhood and beyond with friends and coming home when we got hungry.
Raymie is a girl who isn't really noticed much by her parents. Her father has actually just up and left with a dental hygienist and Raymie's mom is spending her time staring into space. Raymie finds some comfort in neighbor Mrs. Borkowski who seems to know everything and always has time to talk to Raymie. She has also hatched a plan to get her father to come home.
Raymie has decided that she will enter and win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire 1975 pageant. This will result in her picture in the newspaper. Her dad will be so proud of her, he'll have to come home. When Raymie tells her dad's secretary her plan, Mrs. Sylvester says Ramie just has to learn to twirl the baton as her talent. This is how she ends up at Ida Nee's place for twirling lessons along with Beverly Tapinski and Louisiana Elefante -- two girls who couldn't be more different from one another.
Louisiana is a wheezy and delicate girl, prone to swooning, while Beverly is the tough talking daughter of a cop who swears that she's seen things. In between these two, Raymie Clarke is a steadfast girl just doing her best to understand others.
Over the next few days, Louisiana dubs their trio the Rancheros, and even though Beverly refuses to live by the moniker, it becomes clear that Louisiana often gets her way. As the girls search for Louisiana's beloved cat, perform good deeds, experience loss, and do a little breaking and entering along the way, they slowly reveal their worries to one another. They become tied together by the brokenness that surrounds them.
As always, DiCamillo leaves poetry on the page. But this book felt different to me. I was talking to a colleague about it and I noted that it felt like it had a big dose of Horvath in the pages. Some have said the girls are too quirky and almost derivative. I disagree. When you look closely, kids are weird. And if they allow themselves to be honest with who they are, Beverlys and Louisianas and Raymies are completely reasonable. Trying to mend neglect with toughness or fantasy is innately human. I really enjoyed this quiet and quirky summery read. I do wonder at today's kids sitting with the 1975 setting. I'm interested in their feedback.
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First sentence: My cat copies me. We tunnel under newspapers, and crouch behind doors. If I hide under the desk, or in the closet, she hides with me.
Premise/plot: A young girl loves, loves, loves her cat. The book shows the two interacting with each other--copying each other. It's a sweet, must-have for cat-lovers.
My thoughts: I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this one. It's one of my favorite picture books that I've discovered since I began blogging ten years ago. I love the writing. I love the illustrations. I love that the first half shows the cat copying the girl, and that the second half shows the girl copying the cat.
Text: 5 out of 5 Illustrations: 5 out of 5 Total: 10 out of 10
Tom and Catrina are the Purrs for Peace Party candidates. They believe every kitty should have a warm place to sleep, nice treats, and that catnip should be legal. They're getting my vote, for sure!
OK but seriously. These guys were fun to do. Even if you don't follow politics, unless you're living under a rock, you know what a crazy election campaign season we're having here in the States. At this point I kind of think a couple of cool cats wouldn't be a half bad choice, given our current options.
Tom and Catina were drawn by hand with colored pencils, then I added the whiskers with Photoshop.
I'm still working on the drawings of knitting Christmas tags and whatnot that I promised in the last post. Too many irons in the fire!
Cats are among some of the most popular pets in the world, and they’ve been so for thousands of years. In fact, there are more than two million cat videos on YouTube. In appreciation of our feline friends for World Cat Day on 8 August, we’ve put together a list of 12 little-known cat facts.
Time Cat. Lloyd Alexander. 1963. 206 pages. [Source: Bought]
First sentence: Gareth was a black cat with orange eyes.
Premise/plot: Jason is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. But that begins to change when in the midst of complaining out loud to his cat, Gareth, Gareth surprises him by talking back. The cat reveals that he can visit nine different lives--any time, any country--and he can and will be happy to take Jason with him.
The times visited by Jason and Gareth: Egypt 2700 B.C., Rome and Britain 55 B.C., Ireland 411 A.D., Japan 998 A.D., Italy 1468, Peru 1555, The Isle of Man 1588, Germany 1600, America 1775.
If you're a cat lover who also enjoys time travel, this is a GREAT read.
My thoughts: I really, really, really found this to be a GREAT read. I found it entertaining and just FUN.
Here are some of my favorite quotes.
When I was a child, I always had cats. They seemed very fond of me. Then, after I became Pharaoh, they didn't seem to care for me half as much. Jason thought for a while. "I don't know," he said at last. "Did you wear that headdress and that beard before you got to be king? That might have frightened them. And another thing," he added, "did you shout as much? Cats don't like being shouted at." Neter-Khet brightened a little. "That might be it." "Even so," Jason said, "when you weren't shouting, you'd think they'd have come around again." "Oh, they did," said Neter-Khet. "But they'd never play or purr when I ordered." "Did you expect them to?" Jason said. "No cat in the world will do that!" "But I'm Pharaoh," Neter-Khet said. "I'm supposed to give orders." "That doesn't mean anything to a cat," said Jason. "Didn't anybody ever tell you?" "Nobody tells me," Neter-Khet said. "I tell them. Besides, they were my cats, weren't they?" "In a way they were," Jason said, "and in a way they weren't. A cat can belong to you, but you can't own him. There's a difference." (19-20)
The only thing a cat worries about is what's happening right now. As we tell the kittens, you can only wash one paw at a time. (125)
Cats are good at being cats, and that's enough. (127)
There’s no doubt about it, going to school for the very first time can be nerve-wracking. It is no wonder that Splat is wide awake bright and early.
When mom opens his bedroom door, his first instinct is to pull the covers over his head. When that doesn’t work, Splat tries all sorts of tactics to delay leaving for school. He can’t find socks and his hair is a mess. One thing he knows for sure, having a friend in his lunchbox is certain to help. Splat pops Seymour the Mouse into his lunchbox and sets out to meet his new teacher and classmates.
Mrs. Wimpydimple and Splat’s new classmates are very welcoming and soon Splat is full of questions. He is especially curious to know why cats chase mice! (A definite opportunity to introduce the concept of foreshadowing) When it is finally lunchtime, Splat opens his lunchbox and his small rodent friend, Seymour is suddenly the centre of attention – and not in a good way. Splat’s new classmates do exactly what readers will predict – the chase is on!
Engaging, playful illustrations provide many details for young children to notice and enjoy. A mostly grey and black color palette is highlighted with vibrant yellow and red details that pop off the page. Those who are able to read will love the signs in the storefront windows and Mrs. Wimpydimple’s blackboard illustrations.
Yep, it’s that time of year. Comic-Con is coming! I haven’t been delving into all the specifics yet but as in year’s past there will be a ton of offsites, and this year, a NEW one involving kitty cats. Last night I noted that there’s a cat cafe on Island near the Horton Grand, and […]
Sixteen-year-old Trinity was born during a solar eclipse and left at the doorsteps of a convent along with a torn piece of papyrus covered with ancient symbols. Raised by nuns in the English countryside, she leads a quiet life until she’s whisked away to the Island of Cats and a grandmother she never knew.
But before they can get to know each other, her grandmother dies. All that Trinity has left is a mysterious eye-shaped ring. And a thousand grieving cats. As Trinity tries to solve the enigma of the torn papyrus, she discovers a world of bloody sacrifices and evil curses, and a prophecy that points to her and her new feline abilities.
Unwilling to believe that any of the Egyptian gods could still be alive, Trinity turns to eighteen-year-old Seth and is instantly pulled into a vortex of sensations that forces her to confront her true self—and a horrifying destiny.
What readers are saying….
“This was an amazing story!” –Hot Off the Shelves
“This book was so super good! Great writing, great characters, great plot. Very immersive reading experience.” –Awesome Book Assessment
“Wow- this book was a stunning, magnificent adventure! Very well written and full of intricate details, I was immediately drawn in and just absolutely did not want to put this one down... The intrigue just leaves you racing through the pages to find out what will happen next! I absolutely, completely enjoyed this book and can't wait to see what happens in the next one!” –The Recipe Fairy
“The way [Zoe Kalo] writes cats into the book is astounding. Every little quirk, mew and lick is incredibly authentic. I love it when a writer is skilled at writing about the animals in the character’s story, it makes it more warm and fuzzy, no pun intended.” –Samantha Writes
“Daughter of the Sunis an intriguing young adult mythology read full of mystery, magic, action, and history… [it] kept me flipping pages like an addict.” –Fishing for Books
“Oh my God. This is definitely a ‘something.’ This concept and the plot is soooo unique and weird and fascinating that I did not want to put this down. I literally breezed through this one…. This book was an overdose of kitty love.” –Grape Fruit Books
“If you are looking for a Young Adult Fantasy book that is different from the norm, then look no further. Daughter of the Sun is full of Egyptian mythology, with layer upon layer of mystery just waiting to be uncovered.” –Archaeolibrarian
About the Author
A certified bookworm, Zoe Kalo has always been obsessed with books and reading. Reading led to writing—compulsively. No surprise that at 16, she wrote her first novel, which her classmates read and passed around secretly. The pleasure of writing and sharing her fantasy worlds has stayed with her, so now she wants to pass her stories to you with no secrecy—but with lots of mystery…
A daughter of adventurous expats, she’s had the good fortune of living on 3 continents, learning 4 languages, and experiencing a multicultural life. Currently, she’s working on a Master’s degree in Comparative Literature, which she balances between writing, taking care of her clowder of cats, and searching for the perfect bottle of pinot noir.
The Misadventures of Grumpy Cat and Pokey, vol. 1 Ben McCool, Royal McGraw, Elliott Serrano, Ben Fisher, Steve Uy. 2016. Dynamite Entertainment. 104 pages. [Source: Review copy]
I didn't enjoy reading The Misadventures of Grumpy Cat (and Pokey!), at least not as much as I was expecting to--wanting to. I hoped my love of Grumpy Cat would outweigh my dislike of comic books. That wasn't the case at all. The portrayal of Grumpy Cat didn't really live up to my expectations either. More often than not, my reaction to a comic was: so what?
I wasn't expecting the weirdness in the collection: a couple of ghost stories, a time travel story, an alien encounter, and one about ancient Egyptian mummies.
Treasure Map--Grumpy Cat exerts a lot of energy in this one to set up Pokey for a trick: she buries a treasure map, pretends to be disinterested, refuses to cooperates, reluctantly agrees, dresses up as a ghost or two, etc. A "real" ghost ends this strip. I was less than enthused by this first comic.
Grumpy in HD--Grumpy gets Pokey and a dog into trouble with the humans in this one. It is about the remote control and how to "make" it work. It felt shorter and less annoying--which is a good thing.
Super-Pokey & Grumpy Cat in Paws of Justice--Pokey convinces Grumpy Cat to be his sidekick. Pokey having been inspired by watching superheroes on tv. There are costumes and everything. Can this duo prove heroic in the local neighborhood. This one is a bit over-the-top in a purely silly way. If I had to pick a favorite to like, it, might accidentally be this one.
Grumpy Cat Goes to Comic-Con--just one page, and, definitely one of the 'so what????' strips.
Cell Phone--Grumpy Cat and Pokey get into some trouble with a cell phone. At first Grumpy Cat was don't *try* to answer the phone, leave it alone, it's nothing but trouble waiting to happen. Then, she changes her mind when the human on the other end of the phone starts talking about bringing treats. It doesn't end well for the cats.
Vincent Van Grump--In an effort to become famous, Grumpy tries her hand at singing, writing, and painting. Perhaps one of the better ones in the collection. At least it isn't otherworldly.
Grumpy Birthday to You--Grumpy Cat is grumpy about her birthday.
Detective Cats--Grumpy Cat and Pokey become detectives to solve a case--a case about missing food or missing treats or something like that. It was okay.
A Grump in Time--weird from start to finish and not in a good-weird way or a funny-weird way. Just weird-weird as in--so what????
Close Encounters of the Grumpy Kind--Pokey and Grumpy meet aliens. At this point I was ready for the book to be done already.
I Know What You Did Last Summer...I Just Don't Care--Fortunately there was just one more story. Unfortunately it was Halloween-themed. This one features the haunted house (again) and an Egyptian mummy-cat.
Findus goes Fishing by Sven Nordqvist, translated by Nathan Large is a book for anyone who’s ever got out of bed the wrong side and felt like nothing at all could improve their day, and also for all those who’ve spent time with someone they love who’s under a dark cloud. It’s a story of patience, love, empathy and one crazy cat.
It’s a gloomy autumn day and old farmer Pettson is down in the dumps. He doesn’t feel like doing any of the jobs he knows he needs to do. He’s blue and stuck in a funk. But his loyal and very dear friend, a kittenish cat called Findus is full of beans and just wants to play. Pettson is having none of it and snaps. “I AM IN A BAD MOOD AND I WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE!”
How can you bring a little happiness back to someone who is feeling unhappy and depressed? What can you do to bring them a small ray of sunshine when all they have above their heads is a dark cloud? Findus may want to have some fun, but he also really wants to make his good friend feel better and so with a little bit of patience, a lot of thoughtfulness and – because Findus is a bit of a rascal – a dash of mischief, Findus cleverly finds a way to help Pettson back on to his feet.
It’s not sugar coated. It’s not all sweetness and light. There is grunting and gloom aplenty. But there’s also a cat with a very big heart who’s not afraid of persevering even when he’s told to scram. Findus helps us all to find a bit of loyalty and kindness in the face of rejection.
This hugely reassuring story is a relatively quiet affair (certainly by the madcap standards of earlier Findus and Pettson escapades), with muted illustrations in browns and greys perfectly matching the moody atmosphere. But Findus goes Fishing is far from downbeat. There are still many moments to spark giggles (all I’ll say is: Who hasn’t known a child who loves to rock chairs onto their back legs?), and the detailed, rich illustrations are a full of cameos worthy of a spotlight on their own.
An excerpt from Findus Goes Fishing written and illustrated by Sven Nordqvist, translated by Nathan Large
I’m a strong contender for the the UK’s No. 1 Findus and Pettson fan, such is my love for these characters and the stories Sven Nordqvist writes. Findus goes Fishing is yet another wonderfully enjoyable, funny-yet-not-afraid-of-being-serious story really all about that most important of things: love and how we share it.
To celebrate the publication next week of Findus goes Fishing I interviewed the book’s UK English translator, Nathan Large and started by asking him a little about his background and how he became a translator. “I come from Gloucestershire and live in Stockholm, the home town of my partner, Emilie. I started translating while working as a linguist on a project developing machine translation tools. At first this was for research reasons, to explore patterns that our software could use. But gradually the translating branched out and found a life of its own.”
Having briefly worked as a translator myself many years ago I wondered what Nathan found particularly enjoyable about the work and his reply really resonated with me. “If you love language for its own sake, there’s always something to discover or enjoy in the work. If you are a curious person, translation also gives you the excuse to read about all sorts of subjects, making you among other things (un)popular at pub quizzes. Generally speaking, it is no bad thing to help people share their stories across languages.” I couldn’t agree more and this is certainly one of the reason’s I’m so grateful to translators, and publishing houses who seek out books in translation.
So how do the nuts and bolts of translation fit together for Nathan? Where does he begin? “It depends. Sven Nordqvist’s stories are pure fun. I read the book, then translate it the old-fashioned way, page by page. I check the draft against the original to see if I’ve missed anything, then put the Swedish to one side and focus on the English. Reading aloud is the best way to do this — the tongue trips over what the eye ignores.” This idea of reading aloud is really interesting – I’ve heard many authors use exactly the same technique, especially with picture book texts, and perhaps this shared approach is no surprise, as translators really are authors in disguise; translators, particularly literary translators, have to be great writers in their own language before sensitivity to a second language can come in to it.
Looking at the Findus and Pettson stories in particular, I love how they are universal – about deep friendship and kindness – but without losing their particular Swedish identity. What is it, however, that Nathan enjoys about these stories? “I like the interplay between words and images, but most of all I like the friendship between the two characters. This comes out particularly well in the latest book, which of course isn’t really about fishing at all but about Findus trying to get Pettson out from under his cloud.
Hawthorn Press wants to stay close to Nordqvist’s voice and the Swedish setting is largely left intact, lutefisk and all. However, observant readers may notice that Pettson and Findus drink tea in one of the books, I won’t say which one. Naturally it should have been coffee.
” At this point I rush off to gather all my Findus and Pettson stories to track down the missing coffee… It’s amazing how big a smile this puts on my face.
So occasionally there might be textual changes, and this leads me to wondering about changes made in the illustrations. At the moment I’m working with a colleague on a close comparison of a French book, which has been translated quite differently into US and UK Englishes. That different words are chosen (in essentially the same language) is interesting, but what has really startled us is that some of the illustrations have been significantly altered. I’m delighted to hear that this doesn’t happen with with Findus and Pettson stories, other than occasionally translating text that appears as part of a picture.
An excerpt from Findus Goes Fishing written and illustrated by Sven Nordqvist, translated by Nathan Large
Our experience with the French book makes me curious about other translations of the Findus and Pettson stories. Hawthorn Press (the UK publishers of Findus and Pettson) has a policy of letting the Swedish character shine threw their texts, but this isn’t the case with all versions of these stories. “It can be interesting to see what other people do with the same source material. The older US versions take quite a different approach, changing all the names and omitting much of the text. Hawthorn’s editions of Findus and the Fox and Pancakes for Findus are actually slightly edited Gecko translations, so there’s some continuity there.”
Ah! Changing names! This is a pet-hate of mine in translated stories, even if in theory I can understand the rationale that sometimes lies behind it (I can see why lovely – but typographically terrifying looking – Nijntje became Miffy for example) but why Findus and Pettson were renamed Mercury and Festus in the US I’d love to know. As to cutting the text, shortening the story, I wonder if this has something to do with different cultural expectations about illustrated books. Those who know different markets would probably agree with Charlotte Berry from the University of Edinburgh that “picture books on the continent tend to be aimed at older children than is generally accepted in the UK and the US and often contain a much higher proportion of text to image” and certainly Findus and Pettson do stand out here in the UK for looking like picture books in size and richness of illustration, but having the length of text at least sometimes associated with fiction for younger readers.
The idea about helping people share their stories across languages and cultures is still swirling in my head, so I can’t resist asking Nathan about Swedish children’s books which haven’t yet been translated into English but which he thinks would bring joy and delight to new readers. “Barbro Lindgren’s books about Loranga, Masarin och Dartanjang: a young boy, his gleefully irresponsible father and a grandfather who lives in the woodshed. First published in 1969-70, the stories are based — give or take the occasional bed-eating giraffe — on Lindgren’s own experiences raising her young family. They are quite unlike anything I have read before. English readers might recognize in Loranga the very opposite of the helicopter parent. With their surreal humour, the books are perfect for reading aloud — to children and grown-ups alike.”
I love the sound of these stories… let’s hope a publisher is listening and gives Nathan a call!
My thanks go to Nathan for giving us an insight into how he works, and most especially for bringing us Sven Nordqvist’s brilliant, delightful, heartwarming big hugs which look like books, filled with Findus and Pettson stories. All power to translators and the publishing houses who support them!
It's been a while since I've done a picture book roundup. Here are three that struck my fancy:
Kind. This boy is the best!
Have you seen Elephant?
Written and illustrated by David Barrow. Gecko Press, 2016
A kind young boy plays hide-and-seek with his elephant friend and takes care to keep the game going, despite the fact that his friend is a very poor hider! Have you seen Elephant? is bright and cheerful and funny, and above all - kind. This is the first book I've seen from Gecko Press and the first by David Barrow. I love it!
Confined? Can the colortamer catch them all?
Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color
Written and illustrated by Julia Denos Balzer Bray, 2016
Bright, bold, and expressive, Swatch is a color tamer - trapping and using colors in the most fantastic of ways. A bold and fearless artist, no color had escaped her artistic eye ... no color but one,
"Morning came, and there it was, fast fading and fierce, the King of All Yellows, blooming in the sidewalk crack in spite of the shadows. Swatch was ready .... At last, Yellowest Yellow would be hers."
Or would it?
This is the first book that Julia Denos has written as well as illustrated. I would love this book even if my favorite color were not the hero of the story!
Find. Where is that cat?
Spot, the Cat
Illustrated by Henry Cole Little Simon, 2016
A beautifully detailed, wordless book - more than just a seek-and-find, it follows the path of an adventurous cat in the city and the boy who wants to find him. Join the young boy and search the city for Spot, the cat.
It's a rainy day in Albuquerque, just right for spring planting and today's topic of GROW:
Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?
Looking at the page I've created for today, I guess my garden is full of kittens (and one lone puppy). I'm not sure why, but I do remember how much I enjoyed watching my cats grow from little balls of fluff to grand masters of stealth and grace.
Using your art journal to record and examine your own personal growth can be a very helpful and encouraging exercise. Some questions you might want to ask yourself along the way could include:
In what areas of life would you like to grow stronger, wiser, more informed, more forgiving, etc.?
What actions can you take to get there?
What's been stopping your growth now or in the past?
What new projects would you like to plant the seeds for?
How can you best take stock of, and celebrate, the growth you've already achieved?
Besides examining your own personal growth, you might like to use your journal to record and express:
Your children's growth and achievements.
An actual garden journal, with notes on planting dates, successes (and failures--my own gardening disasters could fill a whole book. . . ), and wish-lists for future gardens.
As I write this post, sitting under lamplight while the skies remain dark and cloudy and the whole world seems muffled in fog, I'm reminded of elementary school and that constant question: What do you want to be when you grow up?
For me it was always an archaeologist. That is, until I learned archaeologists had to dig ditches in hot climates and get all dusty and dirty. Yuk! Looking back I think what I really meant was I wanted to work in a beautiful museum, hushed and scholarly, and where the only "dirt" was the collection of rock and gem specimens behind glass. But it makes an interesting study, to see where I came from and where I landed, and where I'm still growing (other than my waistline. . .). So how about you?
Tip of the Day: What did you want to be when you "grew up"? Did you achieve your goal, or did life show you an entirely different path you followed instead? And what about now, any plans for the future? Write, collage, draw and get them down on paper--make that garden grow.Add a Comment
Nick Bruel’s Bad Kitty is everyone’s favorite mischievous feline. Recently, the series creator and Bad Kitty herself were interviewed by Rocco Staino on StoryMakers. The Bad Kitty series is a favorite of early readers and those who’ve been introduced to chapter books. Bruel discusses the evolution of the Bad Kitty series — from picture books to chapter books; his inspiration for going against the sometimes syrupy sweet kid lit grain; and how Bad Kitty went from page to stage. Nick Bruel has appeared in the Princeton Book Festival and Carle Honors episodes of StoryMakers.
When Kitty is happy and healthy, everything is perfect. She jumps around, eats everything in sight, and has the energy to keep slobbering puppies in their place. But when she’s sick, all she can do is lie in her bed. Looks like it’s time for this sick kitty to go…to the vet. When Kitty’s family finally manages to get their clawing, angry pet into the doctor’s office, it’s a wild adventure for Kitty, who has to get the most dreaded thing of all…a shot. Once the shot is administered, Kitty is cast into an ingenious dream within a dream sequence in which she has to make right by Puppy or risk being shut out of PussyCat heaven forever. This ninth installment of the popular Bad Kitty series from Nick Bruel is chock-full of brilliant supporting characters and, of course, the crankiest bad kitty you’ve ever seen.
ABOUT NICK BRUEL
Nick Bruel is the author and illustrator of New York Times bestseller Boing! and the Bad Kitty books, among others. He is a freelance illustrator and cartoonist, and during his down time, he collects PEZ dispensers and grows tomatoes in the backyard. He lives in Tarrytown, NY with his wife Carina and their lovely cat Esmerelda.
It’s a madcap tale of one bright Nate Bannister, who – rather admirably – makes a conscious effort to keep his life interesting; every Friday the 13th he chooses to do three things which are either a challenge or likely to bring some adventure. This year this includes creating an enormous, invisible cat who does indeed make life rather more exciting… by going on the rampage.
Fortunately Nate has a loyal friend (indeed, his only friend), Delphine, and together they try all sorts of things to stop the crazy cat from destroying their neighbourhood. Inventions galore and smart thinking abound, but it’s not at all straight forward, because the Red Death Tea Society (ominous baddies of the most evil variety, who just happen to have astonishing tea brewing skills) are set on preventing Nate and Delphine from saving the day.
This riotous book, ideal for 9-12s, celebrates being a little bit different and being curious and clever. Brilliantly, it does this with a great dose of silliness and laughter, so it always feels exhilarating and never sanctimonious. Pacey, eccentric, highly imaginative and with characters and a story line likely to appeal to both boys and girls, I’d suggest How to Capture an Invisible Cat to anyone who loves off-the-wall adventure and thinking outside the box.
There’s something very mysterious about the Red Death Tea Society and so we couldn’t resist having a go at making up some tea they might enjoy. We gathered our tea making ingredients; a mixture of warm spices (cinammon, cardomum, cloves, star anise), fresh herbs (rosemary, sage mint), citrus zest (lemon and orange) and sugar lumps, plus small muslin squares to make the teabags (alternatively you could make teabags out of coffee filters using these instructions, or be inspired by this tea bag themed pinterest board).
Deciding on tea flavours was a bit like mixing up magic potions.
Once the flavours were carefully selected, the muslin squares (about 12cm long on each side) were tied up with red thread, and a tea bag label was stapled onto the thread (using a knot to hold it in place).
M designed the logo for the teabags, but if you’d like to use them you can download them here (pdf).
Once all our teabags were ready, we made boxes for them:
Thinking of three things which would make your life more interesting and attempting to achieve one of them! They don’t need to be quite as crazy as Nate’s ideas – you could decide as a family to learn a new language or skill, try a new cafe or just asking your local librarian for a book recommendation. And if you want to know when all the Friday the 13ths are – here’s a handy table.
If you liked this post you might like these other posts by me:
Clover the Bunny (Dr. KittyCat #2) Jane Clarke. Scholastic. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
I would have LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the Dr. Kittycat series as a child. I would have. I know it. Partly because even as an adult, I am charmed and quite pleased. Partly because I've always had a fondness for cats and animals.
So Clover the Bunny is the second book in the series. Dr. KittyCat and Peanut are planning a camping trip. Sadly, some animals who were planning to go with them came down with paw pox. Fortunately, not everyone got sick. (You do only get paw pox once, and if you've had it, you're immune.) Clover, a bunny, is one of the animals going camping. And it is Clover who happens to need quite a bit of medical attention throughout the book! Dr. KittyCat is always prepared, and so is Peanut!
The story is cute and charming, and, probably won't appeal to every adult certainly. It probably won't appeal to every single child either. But for the right child, this might be the series that gets them super-excited to pick up a book! And series books are so essential in this stage of development!
Happy Feline Friday! Steve of Burnt Food Dude started Feline Friday. A fun meme that is simple to join and fun to post.
All you have to do is post a picture, drawing, cartoon, or video of a cat, then visit Steve's blog, go to the top of the menu bar and click on the Feline Friday Code. Paste the code under your cat picture, add you name and link and join in the fun. It's a great way to meet other bloggers and see a variety of adorable cats and kittens being themselves. You can even post a photo of your own feline when he/she is not looking. :) Have a spectacular day!
But what happens when he has to choose between his passion and his pals?
Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat by Emily MacKenzie (@emilymackenzie_) is all about the dilemma you face when you have to decide what really matters to you. Stanley is wild about wool, barmy about yarn and just can’t stop the click-clack of his knitting needles. He makes all sorts of lovely jumpers, scarves and more for his friends, but when he runs out of wool just when he needs it most (for a knitting competition) what’s he to do? Will he demand his gifts back, in order to re-use the wool? Will he find a way to follow his dream and yet avoid disappointing his friends?
Emily MacKenzie’s tale of enthusiasm and eccentricity is joyous and upbeat, illustrated with all the energy Stanley puts into his knitting. Funny (knitted elephant trunk tubes, anyone?), vibrant (all the alluring colours you’d find in a wool shop) and feel-good, Stanley’s spirited creativity is infectious and inspiring.
And inspired we were! Taking our lead from Stanley and a hot air balloon he knits we decided to have a go at making our own woolly dirigibles.
Our first balloons were made by gluing lots and lots of strands of different wool onto card (we used PVA glue and card rather than paper so everything held together a little better).
When all the glue was dry we flipped the card over and drew two shapes – a large circle (by drawing around a bowl), and a basket shape – before cutting them out and joining them together with a bit of hot air balloon rope (ie more wool). Finally we drew Stanley so he could fly in our balloons as they floated gently over our kitchen table (suspended from the ceiling with a little bit of thread).
If you don’t feel like drawing your own Stanley, Emily has very kindly created one you can print off and cut out:
Right click to save and the print out!
Our next plan was a little more ambitious.We wanted to create a 3-D hot air balloon and so this time we dipped our wool in PVA glue before draping it over a suspended balloon.
Whilst the gluey wool dried (it took a couple of days – though if it’s summer where you are the process might be a whole lot speedier) we made our basket. I cut vertical lines down the side of a plastic pot and the girls then wove wool strands in and out of the tongues of plastic, gradually covering the entire pot.
We attached the basket to the woolly balloon and then popped the balloon….
It didn’t work out quite how I had hoped, but we were still smiling at the result and hopefully Stanley was too!
Scribbling with exhilaration! The endpages of Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat are filled with lots of unruly wool, with wild scribbles across the page. Why not let the kids go crazy and see how quickly they can fill a page with loose pieces of “wool”?
Author and illustrator Kelly Light shows Storymakers host Rocco Staino how to draw the fierce and fantastic cat from Louise Loves Art.
Ready! Set! Draw! is the drawing tutorial show for anyone who aspires to draw like their favorite kid lit illustrators. In each episode a bestselling and/or award-winning artist draws a character from their book. Budding artists will enjoy creating their very own versions of familiar and new characters.
Did you, a child, or student draw their own cat using this video? Please share your images with us via Facebook or Twitter!
Louise Loves Art – Meet Louise. Louise loves art more than anything. It’s her imagination on the outside. She is determined to create a masterpiece—her pièce de résistance! Louise also loves Art, her little brother. This is their story. Louise Loves Art is a celebration of the brilliant artist who resides in all of us.
ABOUT KELLY LIGHT
Author and illustrator Kelly Light grew up on the New Jersey shore surrounded by giant pink dinosaurs, cotton candy colors, and Skee-Ball sounds. She was schooled on Saturday-morning cartoons and Sunday funny pages. She picked up a pencil, started drawing, and never stopped. Kelly has illustrated Elvis and the Underdogs and Elvis and the Underdogs: Secrets, Secret Service, and Room Service by Jenny Lee, and The Quirks series by Erin Soderberg.
Kelly is an International Ambassador of Creativity for The Chuck Jones Center for Creativity! The Center is a non-profit founded by Chuck Jones, the animator, artist and director of so many of the cartoons that we think of when we just think the word “cartoon”. In his lifetime, Chuck enjoyed talking to and encouraging younger artists. The center continues in this spirit to ignite creative thinking through free art classes for kids, creativity workshops, presentations and talks for kids and adults meant to inspire and enlighten. The center also has outreach programs to local schools who have lost their art funding and visits senior citizen centers to provide drawing and creativity exercises for greater mental and emotional health.
You walked out the door this morning. Why did you do it? Perhaps because you wanted to stretch your legs. Perhaps because you wanted to feel the fresh air on your face and the wind blowing through your hair. Is that it? Not quite. I bet you also walked out the door this morning because the phone didn’t ring a second earlier.
Quackers Written and Illustrated by Liz Wong Alfred A. Knopf BYR 3/22/2016 978-0-553511543 32 pages Ages 3—6 “Quackers is a duck. Sure, he may have paws and whiskers. And his quacks might sound more like…well, meows, but he lives among ducks, everyone he knows is a duck, and he’s happy. Then Quackers meets …
That we refuse to have a pet cat is an ongoing source of frustration for my kids (if you’re curious as to why, several of the reasons are covered in this article) and so when M and J discovered Poppy’s Place: The Home-made Cat Café they hungrily swallowed it whole, making notes as they read, plotting quietly with each other when ever they though I wouldn’t notice.
Isla is cat crazy, but her mum refuses to let her have one as a pet. Isla’s mum works as a veterinary nurse and the last thing she wants after a busy day at work is to come home to more animals who need looking after. But then Poppy appears in their lives…
This especially lovely cat, in need of a home, turns up at around the same time as Isla’s granny comes to stay for the first time since becoming a widow. Gentle strands exploring family relationships, the grieving process, and the adjustments that have to be navigated as family shapes change all come together in this sweet story where Isla comes up with an entrepreneurial way to persuade her mum to finally let her dream come true and have a cat at home.
And as the title alludes to… not just one cat, but a full on fantasy for many a feline fan: the creation of their very own cat café, a place where you can not only get great cake, but can enjoy a coffee with a cat purring in your lap. The experience of reading books is often about escaping into dreams you wish could become reality, and for my girls this was definitely the case with Poppy’s Place: The Home-made Cat Café!
This is a feel-good, gentle comfort-read of a story, ideal for fans of Holly Webb’s animal stories, or perhaps those who like Jacqueline Wilson’s younger fiction. Isla’s persistence and her tech savvy big sister’s kindness are great, and the way the community comes together to support a project is another charming side to this story. Both my kids are very pleased there is to be second book later in the year following the characters they’ve met in Poppy’s Place… even if they’re still getting nowhere when it comes to persuading me that we should have a cat. At least now they can live vicariously through Isla!
I wouldn’t want you to think that I have a heart of stone, even though I refuse to have pets. I really do have a soft side, and I even let it show one day after school when the kids came home to this:
The girls ordered from the menu…
Can you spot all the different feline-themed food?
We may not have had any real cats in our café, but we certainly had a few who stepped out from stories. Who can you spot?
If you’d like to make your own cat café at home, please feel free to use our menu template. It has endorsements from all sorts of fictional cats (Garfield says of the café: “Paw-sitively the yummiest place to eat even if there isn’t any lasagna…“), and also some cat-themed book recommendations on the back. You can download the menu cover here (pdf), and the inside (ready for you to fill with your own choice of food) here (pdf).
Except for the book covers and the silhouette cats, all the images used in the menu come from the British Library Flickr Stream, an amazing set of over a million images from British Library held material, free for anyone to use, remix and re-purpose.
Whilst dining in our home made cat café we listened to:
C Is for Cat by The Pop Ups
Walking My Cat Named Dog by They Might Be Giants
Kitty Fight Song by Joe McDermott
Other activities which might work well alongside reading Poppy’s Place include:
Little Cat's Luck. Marion Dane Bauer. Illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell. 2016. Simon & Schuster. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
Did I enjoy reading Marion Dane Bauer's Little Cat's Luck? Yes, I did! What should you know about the book? I'd recommend it to elementary-aged readers who love animals, who love cats especially. It is also a verse novel. One of those verse novels why you're not really quite sure why it's written in verse instead of prose. Personally, prose or verse doesn't really matter in this particular story because I really like cats.
Patches, our heroine, tumbles through a window screen to begin her adventure in the wider world. She's uneasy for the first few chapters, and, readers may be just as puzzled as she is as to why. I guessed a little bit ahead of the big reveal. But it's not something that I guessed from chapter one!
Essentially, Patches is a cat on a mission: find a cozy, just-right place that is out-of-the-way and dark and a bit quiet. She finds her SPECIAL PLACE, but, it isn't without risk. For her special place isn't really *hers* to have. It is a dog house. But this dog house belongs to the so-called meanest dog in town. The super-smelly dog that barks constantly--if he's awake--the one that every person seems to know as *that dog.* His name is Gus. And Gus and Patches will have a lot to say to one another....