Publishing: Harper and Brothers, New York, 1940
Awards: Caldecott Honor
Description: April’s father constantly tells their cat Sheba that the family has a “one cat apartment” and that she should not have kittens. Sure enough, the cat does have kittens-three of them. April, of course, becomes attached and wants to keep them all, but her father is insistent. Her parents tell April that she can either keep Sheba or her favorite kitten, but the other three must go. Soon a family friend and her son take one of the kittens, and a neighbor take the other. April must decide between Sheba and her favorite kitten, Brenda. Just as April decides she cannot forsake her old cat, the family decides that they need to move to a bigger apartment: a “two cat apartment.”
Programming: This would pair well with Newberry’s other pet books, including Marshmallow, another Caldecott Honor. One family that read this book with their children reported that their girls pointed out that the cat could have been spayed or neutered, and the family had to explain that that was not a common procedure when the book was written. In that way, it might be a segue into the history of the time period. It is also simply a heart-warming story about a girl who has to make a tough choice.
Publishing: Greenwillow Books, 2004
Awards: Caldecott Medal, ALA Notable Children’s Book, School Library Journal Best Book, Publisher’s Weekly Best Book
Description: This beautiful black and white book follows a curious little kitten as she tries to get a drink from what she thinks is a big bowl of milk in the sky. The black and white highlights the night-time setting. The illustrations are varied in size and have enough detail to be interesting, but are simplistic enough to be elegant.
Programming: This sounds like a good time to talk about the phases of the moon. It might to too complex to explain why the moon changes shape, depending on your audience, but I think the fact that at different times it looks different ways could be said. Then, I like this idea of using oreos to show the different phases. Plus, I’m always a fan of eating. 🙂
Newbery Honor Book
Publishing: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1956 (originally copyright in 1928)
Description: This is the delightful little tale of a “very old man” on the search for the prettiest kitten to bring home to his wife. However, he comes upon “hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats” and then he has a hard time choosing just one. The illustrations are black and white line drawings and the characters and setting seem folksy in nature. They range in size from small drawings that take up less than 1/3 of the page to large illustrations that merit their own pages. While they are not surrounded by a border, there are no bleeds. The repetition of the adverb “very” and certain stock phrases are pleasing to read aloud, and the story is charming, despite it being slightly violent to think of the cats destroying each other by fighting at the end. Overall, however, I think this book is a classic that children today will still enjoy.
Programming: The obvious tie-in here would be to some sort of program about cats. It could also tie in to numbers: what does a million look like? What would you do with a trillion cats? Or, it could simply reinforce that a billion is bigger than a million, etc. As far as moral implications, this book could teach the lesson that sometimes it is better not to stand out, or that every person, er, cat, is beautiful and worthy of love and attention. I’m sure there are all sorts of kitty crafts that would be fun to go along with this story.