Saturday, December 02, 2023

Cardboard Kingdom and Caturday

Sell, Chad, Fuller-Ng, Jay DeMeo, David, et. al.(contributors)
The Cardboard Kingdom #3: Snow and Sorcery
November 7, 2023 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

In this sequel to Cardboard Kingdom (2018) and Roar of the Beast (2021), the neighborhood children are back, and somehow, inexplicably, playing with cardboard in the snow. (This distracted me a LOT.) The stories seem much shorten and are more disjointed than the ones in the other books, but provide more insight into the different characters. Connie, in her robot costume, pretends to be an android when her aunt comes to visit, which seems odd at first, but soon everyone is playing along and having fun. New characters come from a nearby neighborhood and cause some problems. I have both of the other books in my library, and while they seemed to young for middle school to me, there have been a few students who are huge fans. Take a look at this newest title if this series is popular in your library. 

I try to keep the focus of this blog on middle grade books, but I also review a number of picture books for Young Adult Books Central. If you're looking for picture books for gifts, there are LOTS of great suggestions there. I usually review dog books, but now that I have spent some quality time with my daughter's cat Bella, I've tried to read more cat books as well. 

Dubois, Claude. George and Tao
September 5, 2023 by Gecko Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Copy provided by Edelweiss Plus George is a small dog who is a little apprehensive when a kitten, Tao, joins his household. After a brief period when the two check each other out, they because fast friends and have a great time playing together. One favorite game is chase, but Tao gets a bit carried away, jumps on the curtains, and falls from some height. The animals' human takes Tao away, and George is bereft. He looks for Tao in all of the normal haunts, but can't find the kitten anywhere. George waits and waits for his friend to come back home, and is very glad when the two are reunited.

This is a tiny book, just six inches square, and is absolutely adorable. I am a huge fan of charcoal and watercolor type illustrations, and the gentle colors are especially evocative when George is sitting at the doorway, waiting for Tao to come back.

There is very little text in this, which will make it a very quick read at bedtime. It would also be great for use when teaching young children word recognition and reading skills, since there's not a lot to distract them. The pictures do have just enough detail so that children can describe things on the page; I particularly like the page with the man sitting in a chair reading the newspaper while George and Tao go racing past his feet. Of course, you might have to describe the ancient artifact that is the print newspaper to a tender young reader!

There are so many good books about cats and dogs, and this is a nice combination of the two. Pair this with McMullan's As Warm as the Sun, Foreman's Cat & Dog, or Oswald's Cat and Dog.

Hokkanen, Mirka. Kitty and Cat: Opposites Attract
April 4, 2023 by Candlewick Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Like many books about opposites, the plot on this in a bit slight. Cat is large, black, and grumpy, while Kitty is small, white, and energetic. Using just the opposite words, we see that Kitty is "new" while Cat is "old", and follow Cat's rocky path to accepting his new roomate. Kitty wants to get Cat's attention, so pounces on him and causes all kinds of havoc. Eventually, Cat manages to lure Kitty to the cat door, and pushes the newcomer outside. When it starts to rain, Cat feels somewhat guilty and goes to retrieve his charge, even drying him off. This softens him a bit, and as the two are settling back in and having their dinner, "apart" becomes "together", which is much nicer.

This is a highly amusing book because of the illustrations. Just take a look at what Hokkanen is able to do with minimal lines and simple colors. Cat is grumbly and cantakerous, while Kitty is sunshine and rainbows in a blender. There's a great picture of Cat surrounded by a cloud of red yarn, and a number of (one supposes) cat nip mice in bright colors that are the center of contention.

Similar in illustration style to Leonni's A Little Book About Opposites, this has a message akin to McMullan's As Warm as the Sun. It is also a bit like Twohy's Stop. Go. Yes. No., but that has a dog and a cat. Now that my daughter has a cat, I'm working on expanding my repetoire of cat picture books, and this will be at home with titles like George and Tao, Amari and Han's Happy Cats, and Maizes and Kramer's Atticus Caticus.

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