The Blue Cat, by Ursula Dubosarsky

A few streets away, a car putting down the twisted hill. It halted outside a block of mulberry-brick flats. A small boy emerged from the back seat, out onto the pavement. He was carrying a suitcase. He stood there, looking upwards. His skin gleamed like snow.
in the middle of the road a sleek cat lay stretched out, absorbing the sunshine.

It is 1942, and Columba (who was named after a nun) is growing up in war time Sydney. A new boy – a refugee from ‘You-rope’ – appears in the neighborhood, at about the same time as a strange blue cat. Columba is intrigued by the new boy, Ellery, though he doesn’t speak English and Columba struggles to understand where he has come from and why he is here. This isn’t the only thing she struggles to understand. Why are the cloaks being put forward for an hour? Why do the adults talk about ‘taking people’s minds off things? And, with Singapore falling, and regular air raid practices, will they be safe here in Sydney?

The Blue Cat is an enchanting piece of writing. Historical fiction with just a tiny twist of magical realism, it is a gentle story of the confusion of a child faced with frightening, not-quite-understood events. With an insight into how the childhood experiences of Australians during the war years, and to harbourside Sydney life, this is an entrancing read.

The Blue Cat, by Ursula Dubosarsky
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760292294

The Cat Wants Custard, by P. Crumble & Lucinda Gifford

Waiter, fetch me a bowl of your best custard.
Well, what are you waiting for?
Haven’t I made myself clear?

Kevin the cat is very hungry, but his human doesn’t seem to understand what he wants. He is offered chicken, sardines, beef and even pigs ears. But what Kevin wants is a big bowl of custard. His efforts to be understood include begging, spelling out custard with his body, and staring at the fridge hungrily. But nothing works. Then, in the middle of the night, the fridge is left open, and Kevin helps himself to what he wants. Or what he thought he wants.

The Cat Wants Custard is a funny picture book, which kids will want again and again. The owner’s voice features only in the first few spreads and in the illustrations appears as just a pair of legs or a hand, so that for most of the book Kevin is the sole voice, facing the reader even as he speaks to the owner. Little kids will love that they know what Kevin is saying, even when his owner doesn’t. Cat lovers will also relate well to Kevin’s actions.

The Cat Wants Custard, by P. Crumble & Lucinda Gifford
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781760155780

The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy & Me, by Michael Gerard Bauer

It all started with The Pain. He officially came into my life exactly nine weeks and one day before my Year Ten Graduation Dance.
It was a Friday.
The thirteenth of the month.
Notice anything there?

Maggie Butt is not happy. She started the year determined that everything would go well – but with the end in sight, things seem to be going fro ad to worse. Not only has she failed to make any friends, but she doesn’t have a date for the graduation dance and her marks in English (her favourite subject) are plummeting. But that’s the worst of it. Her mother seems to be letting her new boyfriend – The Pain – into both her own life, and Maggie’s, whether Maggie likes it or not.

The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy & Me is a funny novel about many of the difficulties of being a teenager – romance, friendship, self-image and family. Maggie has a lot going on with her parents’ divorce having led to her changing schools and not fitting in at the new one. Her mother’s blossoming relationship with a new boyfriend also causes disruption – not the least of which is his ability to scare off the only boy who’s ever shown an interest.

There are lots of laughs to be had but there are also more serious moments.

The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy & Me, by Michael Gerard Bauer
Omnibus Books, 2016
ISBN 9781742991504

The Pocket Dogs and the Lost Kitten, by Margaret Wild & Stephen Michael King

But one day they noticed that Mr Pockets was spending a lot of time playing with the kitten.
He laughed when she sat on his head.
He laughed when she scampered away with his ball of wool.
He laughed when she tip-toed around the bath.
And he looked contented when she fell asleep on his chest.

Biff and Buff love living with Mr Pockets – and riding in the pockets of his very big coat. But when a lost kitten arrives on their doorstep, they are at first concerned and help to look after the kitten. Until they notice how much Mr Pockets loves the kitten, and start to worry that Mr Pockets might neglect them. When clever Mr Pockets realises this, he reassures them, but in the meantime the kitten has run away, and it’s up to the Pocket Dogs to get her to come back.

ThePocket Dogs and the Lost Kitten is the third wonderful story featuring the wise and whimsical Mr Pockets and his two adorable canine companions. It is a tale about companionship, and friendship and, of course, the idea that there is no limit on how many people (or animals) a person can love. It could also be used as preparation for the arrival of a new sibling. Mostly, though, it is a joyous book about a man and his animal companions.

With the whimsy and quirky detail of the previous books, the illustrations, in ink and pencil, are divine.

The Pocket Dogs and the Lost Kitten, by Margaret Wild & Stephen Michael King
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781742991054

Shadowcat by Julia Louise ill Anne Ryan

Edith worried she might be turning into a garden gnome.

Every day she sat alone, as still as a statue.

Sometimes she sat for so long that the grass grew

past her nose to tickle her eyelashes.

ShadowcatEdith worried she might be turning into a garden gnome.

Every day she sat alone, as still as a statue.

Sometimes she sat for so long that the grass grew

past her nose to tickle her eyelashes.

Edith is feeling blue. Since the arrival of her new baby brother, it seems that everything she does is wrong. She is sure no one will miss her if she turns into a garden gnome. Then she meets Shadowcat. Shadowcat can tell that Edith has stopped dreaming. Shadowcat reminds Edith how to find joy in simple things. While Shadowcat is there, Edith regains her joyfulness and dreaming. When Shadowcat is gone, Edith must learn to rely on herself to remember how to dance. Illustrations are painted in stain-glass window colours, warm and rich.

Edith feels left out now her family has grown to include a little brother. She is depressed, gradually closing down until she feels almost unable to do anything. The gnome-state is where she’s headed without intervention. Lucky for her, Shadowcat arrives. Childhood depression is increasing and Julia Louise’s Shadowcat offers an accessible text to explore this clinical and crippling sadness with young readers. Anne Ryan’s artwork is stunning, colourful and empathetic. Ideal for parents and teachers wanting to introduce and support feelings. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Shadowcat, Julia Louise ill Anne Ryan
Five Mile Press 2015
ISBN: 9781760067090

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Cat With the Coloured Tail, by Gillian Mears

Mr Hooper’s cat was not like any ordinary cat. For a start, his face was the shape of a heart. Most amazing of all, and unlike any other cat in the world, Mr Hooper’s cat had a tail that could change colour.

Mr Hooper and his cat are an amazing pair. For a start, Mr Hooper has an icecream van which looks like a full moon, and dispenses ice creams – or “Moon-creams” – in any flavour imaginable. When The Cat With the Coloured Tail finds someone who is unhappy or in need of help, the colour of his tail changes and tells Mr Hooper just what flavour ice cream is needed.

Their relationship, too, is special. They travel together, revelling in each other’s company, singing and searching for heart-shapes in the world around them. But when the cat’s tail starts to turn black and he senses that something terrible is going to happen, things look grim. The heart of the world is suffering, and it may take all of the cat’s strength to fix it.

The Cat with the Coloured Tail is a moving, whimsical fable about the power of hope and of love. Readers of all ages will love the mysterious, joyful cat and his kindly companion, and the joy they bring each other and those they meet. Their adventure, which becomes a quest to save the heart of the world, is in turns frightening, sad, and uplifting.

In hardcover format with gently coloured pencil illustrations, the beautiful design of the book perfectly complements the story it contains.

The Cat with the Coloured Tail, by Gillian Mears, illustrated by Dinalie Dabarera
Walker Books, 2015
ISBN 9781922077400

Remarkably Rexy, by Craig Smith

9781760113940.jpgHe’s been the most dazzling cat on Serengeti Street for years and years. He’s majestic, proud, maybe brave as well.

Rex is a very handsome cat, and everybody loves him. Every morning he grooms himself, and warms up ready for the kids on their way to school to stop and admire him. All is well with the world – until Pretty Pamela, the perfect siamese from down the street, prances into view just as the kids arrive, and steals the attention. As Rex pretends he doesn’t care, pandemominum breaks loose, when Towser the dog escapes, a magpie family gets cranky, and Rex ends up in a muddy puddle. Will the kids love him anyway?

Remarkably Rexy is a humorous tale of cats and their self-obsession. Rexy is likeable, though very vain, and his misadventures will delight young readers, as will the other animal characters – Pamela, Towser the dog, and the Magpie family.

Illustrator Craig Smith is well known for his warm, rich and often humorous illustrations, but in Remarkably Rexy he makes his debut as author, too.

Remarkably Rexy will be loved, just as he deserves.

Remarkably Rexy, by Craig Smith
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781760113940

Poppy Cat by Sara Acton

Poppy Cat is a copy cat.

She follows me wherever I go.

She does whatever I do.

 

A small girl shares stories of life with her loved cat, Poppy Cat. Poppy Cat follows her around and shares many of her daily activities. But each of them likes to do things by themselves too, with varying levels of success. Poppy Cat begins with early morning happiness and ends with bedtime happiness, shared with a pet. Illustrations are loose watercolours with black outline. Images sit in white space.

Poppy Cat is a gentle story of a child and her pet, the two of them learning and sharing throughout an ordinary day. The mischief Poppy Cat gets to is seen as humourous rather than troublesome and there appears to be an understanding that everyone needs time on their own. The white space in which the simple text and images are set allows the reader to make this story their own. It’s a slow-down-and-live-in-the-moment story, revelling in the simplicity of everyday. Recommended for pre- and early schoolers.

 

Poppy Cat, Sara Acton Scholastic Press 2014 ISBN: 9781743620168

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Lisa Absolutely Loves Art by Sophie Norsa

Lisa and her cat Picasso watched from the café

as artists created their paintings.

One day the gallery hung all its paintings.

Their colours were like a rainbow on the wall.

Lisa took Picasso to see the pictures,

but when her back was turned

he ran away.

Lisa and her cat Picasso watched from the café

as artists created their paintings.

One day the gallery hung all its paintings.

Their colours were like a rainbow on the wall.

Lisa took Picasso to see the pictures,

but when her back was turned

he ran away.

Lisa and her cat, Picasso, watch artists at work outside the Art Gallery every day. When finally the art is framed and hung in the gallery, Lisa takes Picasso to have a closer look. But Picasso vanishes. So begins an imaginary adventure. Lisa searches through the gallery experiencing the worlds of great artists. Though she cannot see him, Picasso is present in each opening. So too is a small tortoise. Lisa walks through the work of Rousseau and Monet, van Gogh and Seurat. And finally, Lisa finds Picasso, back at the café for another treat. And then it’s time to create her own art, inspired by what she’s experienced. Illustrations fill the spreads and threaten to spill out.

Lisa Absolutely Loves Art offers young readers and artists a closer look at famous paintings. Lisa immerses herself in each page, almost accidentally in her search for her cat. She experiences the paintings with all senses, being drenched in rain, joining dancers for rehearsal in a wooden-floored hall. Even if young readers are not familiar with the paintings depicted (and there’s a list of them with images in the final pages) they will enjoy the romp through the pages. Teachers and parents may use this book as an introduction to art and artists, and young artists may be inspired to create their own masterpieces. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

 

Lisa Absolutely Loves Art, Sophie Norsa New Frontier Publishing 2014 ISBN: 9781925059045

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Kitten Kaboodle Mission One: The Catier Diamond by Eileen O’Hely ill Heath McKenzie

With white fur, blue eyes, and a diamond-studded, pink velvet collar, Misty wasn’t your typical alley cat. Dingy Litter Alley in the backstreets of Felcanham was the last place you’d expect to find a cat like Misty.

She padded along between the rows of rubbish bins, taking great care to keep her paws well away from the dirty puddles on the ground. And with every step she took, the feeling that she was being watched grew stronger.

A sudden noise behind Misty made her stumble. Her front paw slid into a puddle, splashing muddy droplets all over her fur.

She looked at the browny-black spots in horrow, then saw something even more frightening. From the shadows between the rubbish bins, ten yellow eyes were staring at her.

With white fur, blue eyes, and a diamond-studded, pink velvet collar, Misty wasn’t your typical alley cat. Dingy Litter Alley in the backstreets of Felcanham was the last place you’d expect to find a cat like Misty.

She padded along between the rows of rubbish bins, taking great care to keep her paws well away from the dirty puddles on the ground. And with every step she took, the feeling that she was being watched grew stronger.

A sudden noise behind Misty made her stumble. Her front paw slid into a puddle, splashing muddy droplets all over her fur.

She looked at the browny-black spots in horrow, then saw something even more frightening. From the shadows between the rubbish bins, ten yellow eyes were staring at her.

Kitten Kaboodle is a secret agent, not content with a normal cat life. He’s the go-to cat when there are mysterious disappearances. This time, it’s pedigree kittens that are vanishing and it’s up to Kitten Kaboodle, No 1 agent for CAT (Clandestine Activity Taskforce) to sort out what’s going on. He goes undercover as a pedigree kitten and allows himself to be kidnapped (kit-napped?) by DOG (Disaster Organisation Group). He discovers their dastardly plan despite nearly giving himself away with his awesomeness. There are black and white illustrations throughout giving ‘face’ to the myriad characters and breaking up the text.

‘Kitten Kaboodle Mission One: The Catier Emerald )’ shows just what your pet animals get up to when they vanish in the night. Cats work alone, mostly, and dogs act in groups. Cats are bright, dogs have grand plans but are not as smart as they think they are. Non-pedigreed and non-pampered animals are likely to be more resilient than pampered pedigrees. Lots of fun and puns wrapped up in an over-the-top mystery about a famous diamond. Young independent readers will enjoy this exploration of the secret lives of animals, which references the style of many classic whodunits. Heath McKenzie’s illustrations combine the cute and the clever in each cat, and the comic brutishness of the enthusiastic but not-so-bright dogs. Recommended for lower- to mid-primary independent readers.

 

Kitten Kaboodle Mission One: The Catier Emerald ), Eileen O’Hely ill Heath McKenzie

Walker Books Australia 2014 ISBN: 9781921529931

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com