Niblet & Ralph (Zachariah OHora)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Niblet & Ralph by Zachariah OHora, a hilarious tale of mistaken identity.

Two nearly-identical cats, Ralph (with his humans, Gemma and her dad) and Niblet (with his humans, Dilla and his mom), live in the same apartment complex in the city, but only the two of them know it. They’re great friends – they look at each other through their windows, meow at each other on the phone, and share the sun at basking time. One day, Ralph figures out a clever way to visit Niblet… in the same moment that Niblet is slipping out to visit Ralph! The two cats are mistaken for their counterpart by the parents, but Gemma and Dilla are certain immediately that their particular furry friend has been replaced with an imposter. Going out the next day to search, the two run into each other, and new friendships are formed.

Adorable. This fun tale of swapped felines oozes charm, both from OHora’s distinct art style – bold colors, heavy black lines, and expressive characters – and his blend of kid-friendly absurdist visual and textual humor. I especially loved the rich environment of the apartment complex and its inhabitants, including the cats’ families – the walls and shelves are filled with art, books, records; the people are multicultural and diverse. The length is great, and JJ loved the kitties, so this one is definitely Baby Bookworm approved!

(P.S. – Animal nerds such as myself will be extra amused by the fact that both calico cats are male – around a 1 in 9 million chance occurance!)

Kit & Kaboodle (Rosemary Wells)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Kit & Kaboodle by Rosemary Wells, a tale of two very good kittens and their mischievous friend.

Readers are introduced to Kit and Kaboodle, two young kittens who are always on their very best behavior, and their tiny mouse companion Spinka, who is always quite naughty. Over the course of three stories, Kit and Kaboodle go about their days, doing things like washing their favorite socks, watching their dad play baseball, and taking their nighttime bath, only to have Spinka puckishly sow her mischief. Each time, Kit and Kaboodle are suspected by their parents, to which they protest their innocence. Then their day continues and Spinka enjoys having gotten away with her tricks.

Uh… hmm. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan. The stories were meandering, often without a compelling plot and always without a satisfying resolution. I’m not sure If Spinka was supposed to be a imaginary or supernatural or just a mouse, but I didn’t love that her pranks – which were often destructive and/or ill-intentioned – went completely unpunished, and she ended up perfectly satisfied that she had stolen belongings or destroyed property. That’s a super-weird message for a book. The antique-style illustrations that are Wells’ signature were fine, but nothing particularly innovative or even aesthetically pleasing. The length was okay, but JJ honestly seemed a little bored – though she did enjoy attempting the word “Kaboodle” for herself. But between the lackluster stories, the antiqued-looking art, and the unsatisfying endings, this one just didn’t do it for us.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Pretty Kitty (Karen Beaumont)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Pretty Kitty, written by Karen Beaumont and illustrated by Stephanie Laberis, a delightful counting book with unexpected heart.

An elderly man alone in the big city comes upon a tiny kitty. He acknowledges the adorable kitten’s charm, but he makes it clear that he is not looking to adopt a cat. But as the first adorable kitten follows him home, another comes to join… then another… then ANOTHER. And over the course of two days, his front stoop fills up with a mother cat and her nine fluffy, irresistible babies. The man gives reason after reason that he cannot possibly adopt even a single one of them, even as he puts out food and gives them scratches. But as the snow begins to fall over the city and the furry family is left out in the cold, the man begins to wonder if his reasons, no matter how personal they may be, can really overcome his affection for his new friends…

This was ADORABLE. Going beyond just a standard counting book, the story is a touching one, especially for cat lovers big and small. The rhyming text is bouncy and flows easily while still creating some wonderful comedic and dramatic moments. The reveal of the true reason that the man is reluctant to adopt another cat is subtle and may fly over the heads of smaller readers, but it will surely tug at the heartstrings of anyone who has loved and lost a pet. I’m so impressed with this one because it attempts to cohere so many elements – comedy, pathos, numbers education, etc – and manages to tie them all together in a beautiful, heartwarming story that teaches as it entertains. Perfect length, JJ went WILD for precious and warm illustrations, and just a fantastic read overall! Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

I Am A Cat (Galia Bernstein)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the silly and simple I Am A Cat by Galia Bernstein, a delightful tale of what makes us different and what makes us the same.

A smallish, tubby gray housecat meets with a group of big cats (consisting of a lion, a cheetah, a puma, a panther, and a tiger), and introduces himself as one of their own. The five beasts stare a moment, then break into uproarious laughter. They all insist that the little tabby can’t be a cat for various reasons: Lion claims that he must have a mane, Cheetah notes his lack of sleekness and speed, Panther says he must come from the jungle, and so on. But Cat points out a flaw in this logic – none of them share these traits, so how does that prove that they are all cats? The big cats explain that while they may have many differences, some things are the same, such as their rounded, perky ears and long whiskers and claws. Cat shows them that he has these things as well, just smaller. And after a moment’s consideration, the big cats realize their mistake. “You’re a cat!” they proclaim, and everyone spends the day pouncing, pawing and, of course, napping together.

Cheerful and marvelously fun. Any child who is a fan of cats – big or small – will love the way the story connects housecats to their larger and more wild brethren. There’s also a nice, subtle lesson to be learned in looking for the things that unite, rather than divide, us from others. The illustrations are adorable, realistic enough to show the natural similarities in the cats yet cartoonish enough to make them cuddly and non-threatening. The length was good and JJ enjoyed it, so we can definitely call this one Baby Bookworm approved!

Where The Heart Is (Satoe Tone)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Where The Heart Is by Satoe Tone, a sweet and tender story of love and devotion.

Two fluffy cats, one white and one black, go for a romantic moonlit stroll one evening. They come upon a pond, where thousands of twinkling lights are dancing across the water, and the black cat promises to catch them for his beloved. He tries to catch them with his paws, a leaf, a line and a net, and while he catches many wonderful things like fish and flying jellyfish and even a massive octopus, he just can’t seem to capture the lights. Disappointed, he apologizes to his love, who simply tells him to look up – the twinkling lights are in the sky. “All for you,” the black cat replies, cuddling with his partner by starlight.

Absolutely adorable. There is a wonderfully romantic tone to the story that will warm the hearts of any adult, yet it maintains an innocence and wonder that keeps it interesting for children. The art is simply magical, using dreamy nighttime colors and a fitting heart motif to draw readers of all ages into the fable. The length is perfect, and JJ and I both loved it. A heartwarming love story, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)