Here Comes the Easter Cat – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Here Comes the Easter Cat

Author: Deborah Underwood

Illustrator: Claudia Rueda

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014

Ages: 2-6

Themes: cats, easter bunny, humorous stories, jealousy


What’s wrong cat?
You look grumpy?

The Easter Bunny?
What about him?


When Cat tries to replace the Easter Bunny, he soon learns that the job is much harder than he expected-and does not allow time for naps.

Why should the Easter Bunny get all the love? That’s what Cat would like to know. So he decides to take over: He dons his sparkly suit, jumps on his Harley, and roars off into the night. But it turns out delivering Easter eggs is hard work. And it doesn’t leave much time for naps (of which Cat has taken five–no, seven). So when a pooped-out Easter Bunny shows up, and with a treat for Cat, what will Cat do? His surprise solution will be stylish, smart, and even–yes–kind

Why I like this book:

I am a fan of all Deborah Underwood’s cat books. Cat has all the charming obnoxiousness of many felines I have known and Underwood nails and quirky cat humor. Cat always manages to be true to her selfish instincts and yet demonstrate her creative generosity at the same time.

This picture book tackles jealousy from a comedic stance and it is very successful. As in the other cat books, it is told from the narrator’s point of view who is addressing the cat directly. The cat has no dialogue, but communicates by his signs and actions, responding to the narrator. His naughtiness will appeal to kids, e.g. the human narrator has to shoot down his idea of distributing hairballs instead of chocolate eggs!

Claudia Rueda is masterful with Cat’s facial expressions and in creating compelling illustrations despite few scene changes. Most of the pictures are of Cat with a white background. But it works to accompany Underwood’s page-turning cat humor. It’s another story that begs to be read aloud with a class several times.


Find more “Perfect Picture Book Friday” reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.

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Star-Crossed – Book Recommendation

Title: Star-Crossed

Author: Barbara Dee

Publisher: Aladdin, March, 2017

Ages: 9-13

Themes: family, friendship, 8th grade theater production, crushes, LGBTQIA, Romeo & Juliet




“It wasn’t about me, I knew. But still.”


Mattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.

As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life. (Goodreads)

Why I like this book:

With a pitch perfect middle grade voice, Dee’s protagonist, Mattie, develops this crush on the British girl who is Paying Juliette in their 8th grade play. I like how she’s confused at first because of a recent crush with a male classmate. Rather than a heavy exploration of coming out as a bisexual, this felt like a very organic description of one sweet girl’s crush within the exploration of friends and family. I enjoyed that Mattie’s older sister and friends are very supportive

The characters are fully realized even the jerky antagonist, Willow because the author makes their motivations logical and visible. Tessa is a well achieved annoying element in the trio of best friends. Which felt authentic. There is a lot of Shakespeare in the story, but I think there is enough humor and lightness to carry it. Middle school readers should appreciate the Shakespearean insults, and I really liked the students’ healthy challenges to the Romeo and Juliette narrative.

Another strength of this book is depiction of different as normal. Mattie half-sister Cara is never referred to as such, and the two sister share a cool relationship (as Mattie does with her two little star-wars obsessed brothers). Divorce is treated as no-big-deal and, Liam’s gayness is just part of who he is.

I read this in a sitting because it is a well-structured story with kind, fun characters and, Mattie’s concerns became mine immediately. The cliques and crushes felt totally middle school, and the bisexuality mainstream. It was refreshing to have a great story arc without excessive drama.

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Tony and His Elephants – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Tony and His Elephants, Best Friends Forever

Text and photos by: Cathleen Burnham

Published by: Crickhollow and Crispin Books, April 2017

Themes/Topics: elephants, baby animals, environmental conservation, Thailand, youth activism, wild animal rescue

Genre: Nonfiction – 32 pages

Suitable for ages:  7-11

Opening Text (comes after a double-pages spread illustrating the location of Thailand in S E Asia and the location of Tony’s camp in the north of the country):

It was Songkran, Thailand’s New Year celebration. Crowds of cheering people waved flags. Songkran also was the hottest time of year: All across Thailand, people celebrated with water fights.


Tony and His Elephants: Best Friends Forever! is a photo documentary animal rescue story set at a Thai Mountain Elephant sanctuary.

Eight year-old Tony’s family runs a small elephant sanctuary in northern Thailand near the mekong River. One day while spending time in the city he spots a young adult and baby elephant clearly suffering from being chained up. He persuades his dad to rescue them and take them home with them. He cares for two young elephants, Baby Pumpuii and Nam Cho, feeding them, training them and becoming their friend.

When a dangerous jungle fire breaks out and his parents are busy trying to put it out, he alone takes the initiative to lead his two proteges to safety higher up on the mountain.

 Why I like This Book:

I love this whole series about young conservationists. Faced with animal suffering and environmental problems, children as well as adults tend to respond with, “There’s nothing I can do.” These stories prove otherwise. Tony is a regular little boy with a warm, caring family who love animals, just like many kids in the West. This story inspires kids to think of how they can make a difference. 

Like the first two books in this series (Doyli to the Rescue: Saving Baby Monkeys in the Amazon and Tortuga Squad: Kids Saving Sea Turtles in Costa Rica), the narrative and photos show a kid with compassion and understanding about the needs of wild animals. Tony recognizes that the two young elephants need love and play as well as shelter and food. I think his courage in the face of a wild fire will challenge lots of young readers.

Burnham skillfully blends her conservation message with insights into the Thai culture and the daily life this family actively involved in a small-scale animal-rescue effort. This is a great book to purchase now to celebrate Earth Day with your family or class in a couple of weeks, and for any conservation units you have.


Find more “Perfect Picture Book Friday” reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.

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