A to Z: Q – a QUIRKY book

Since I couldn’t find a cat book with a “Q” in the title, I chose a QUIRKY book to review instead!



Katherine Applegate
Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan, 2015 

From the dust jacket: “Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There’s no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again.

“Crenshaw is a cat. He’s large, he’s outspoken, and he’s imaginary. He has come back into Jackson’s life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?

“Beloved author Katherine Applegate proves in unexpected ways that friends matter, whether real or imaginary.”

When I decided to read this book, I knew it was about a cat and homelessness. I figured it would be sad (and I hate reading sad books). But I didn’t figure on it being sweet, and gentle, and so thought-provoking. It speaks to the amazing resilience of kids who are in tough, out-of-their-control situations and what they will do to survive – like creating a human-sized cat who talks, does handstands, and takes bubble baths. Crenshaw is Jackson’s way of coping with an intolerable situation; he is Jackson’s wiser self, offering advice, comfort and encouragement.

This is a small book, but only in size. It has 230 pages but it’s for elementary aged children so the print is large and a quick read (I read it in about 2.5 hours). Small in size but large in its message. And the message is that of homelessness. Of families being homeless. Of children coping with homelessness.

Jackson makes this comment, “I guess becoming homeless doesn’t happen all at once. My mom told me once that money problems sort of sneak up on you. … Maybe we didn’t become homeless overnight. But that’s what it felt like. I was finishing first grade. My dad had been sick. My mom had lost her teaching job. And all of a sudden—bam—we weren’t living in a nice house with a swing set in the backyard anymore.”

If that doesn’t stop you and make you think “Wow! That could happen to me!”, what will? Homelessness is a difficult subject to deal with but this book handles it with dignity and compassion. Crenshaw may be written for children, but it is so well-written and profound, adults will benefit from reading it as well. It doesn’t have an ‘and they lived happily ever after’ ending but it does end with hope for the future. And that’s all anyone can ask for, is hope for the future.

Rating 5 out 5 paws for the simple, yet profound way Crenshaw and Jackson wove their story.




A to Z: ‘H’ – The HOTEL Cat


the hotel cat

The Hotel Cat
A Jenny’s Cat Club Book

Esther Averill
The New York Review Children’s Collection, 1969

From the back of the book: “On a cold winter night the heat goes off in Jenny Linksy’s house and Captain Tinker tells Jenny and her brothers Checkers and Edwards that they will all be spending the night at the Royal Hotel. As it turns out, this is no ordinary cold snap: this is the Big Freeze. Boilers all over the city are breaking down and people and pets are crowding into the hotel. In the midst of the confusion, Jenny is delighted to encounter her old friends from the Cat Club.

“Tom, the hotel cat, used to be a stray, living a tough life on the streets. One day he showed up at the Royal, and soon he was earning his keep as a mouser. But what’s Tom to do when so many new cats suddenly show up on his territory? Can he trust them? His friend Mrs. Wilkins has lived at the hotel for a long time and knows how to talk to cats. She persuades Tom to give the visitors a warm welcome. Which is how Tom and Jenny and the members of the Cat Club all come together to put on the unforgettable gala Stardust Winter Ball!”

So, with this Jenny’s Cat Club book we meet 2 new cats – one who, as it turns out, is from a previous book that we haven’t read – Jenny Goes to Sea. Our library doesn’t have it so it may take a while for us to find a copy to enjoy. But, nonetheless, the new/old character is Jack Tar, a ship’s cat that spends his shore leave with Captain Tinker and kitties. But the new cat, and the main one of this book, is Tom, former stray, now The Royal hotel cat. And what a character he is, too. He is at turns an old softie and a bit of a bully in the beginning but he learns to be tolerant of other cats and makes some forever friends.

Another charming addition to the Jenny’s Cat Club series; there are lessons in tolerance and acceptance, and in working together for the common good. I especially liked the addition of 2 humans to the story – these humans are special because they can converse with the cats easily and give them room to be cats. We wish all humans could do that!!! As with the other books, the print is a medium size so it’s good for somewhat experienced readers and older kittens may want to practice reading by sharing it with their younger siblings. The line drawings are sweet as well, although I did miss seeing Jenny’s scarf not printed in red! We’ve enjoyed the whole series and look forward to reading the other two somewhere down the line!

Rating 4 paws out of 5 – for storytelling at its finest and dancing cats!!




A to Z: D – DREAM of Jade


dream of jade

The Emperor’s Cat

Lloyd Alexander
Illustrated by D. Brent Burkett
Cricket Books, an imprint of Carus Publishing Company, 2005

From the dust jacket: “No one, not even the most exalted mandarin, was permitted to gaze directly upon the face of the great Kwan-Yu, Celestial Emperor of China (and embodiment of the Nine Heavenly Virtues.) But, Dream-of-Jade, a green-eyed cat, as curious as she was beautiful, decided that she wanted to do just that. she slipped into the empty Throne Room and sat upon the Imperial throne herself. When Kwan-Yu arrived, she did not give up her seat but pointed out the dangerous state of the Emperors ceiling right above his throne.

“Thus began the great friendship between an Emperor and a little white cat with green eyes, who not only saved the Emperor’s life at their first meeting, but who knew how to cure his ailments, made him laugh, and found ways to entertain him. Dream-of-Jade’s greatest wish was to make Kwan-Yu the best emperor who had ever ruled the Celestial empire.”

When we first got this book at the library, Simon thought it was going to be another picture book for him to review; but then once he got a look at it, he handed it over to me since it is more in my realm of things. The book is a story book for older kittens with pictures included.

The oil paintings/illustrations are luminous with glowing detail.  They are lush and beautiful, masterpieces as far as I’m concerned.

The stories of Dream-of-Jade and the Emperor are how the cat looks and then cures emperor; makes the emperor laugh; accepts a gift from the emperor; and finally, how Dream-of-Jade makes the laws of the empire. They reminded me a bit of Aesop’s Fables, where the main focus of the story is on learning a lesson or moral. The ancient Chinese culture is either well-researched or well-imagined, however I don’t know that much – if anything at all – of ancient Chinese culture, so am unable to know if the author ‘got it right’. Mom googled Emperor Kwan-Yu for me but found him only in this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5 paws because the stories are well told and enjoyable but the illustrations are quite beautiful and outshine the words.

Reviewer: PeggySue



dream of jade d