Cats and Dogs and Picture Books

Lynn and Cindy: You can NEVER have too many picture books featuring cats or dogs or both! Here are three terrific books featuring our furry friends.

My Wild Cat (Eerdmanns, 2019) by Isabelle Simler

I don’t know how I missed this one last year but I am so glad I caught up with it now. This is part scientific fact, part poetic description, part affectionate tribute and all stunning illustration. Simler is an illustrator I admire greatly and she clearly knows and loves cats. The book is in a small format, with each set of pages featuring a descriptive phrase, a related scientific fact as a footnote and wonderful drawings in pastel on a white background. The use of shape and form is simply brilliant and there is a smile lurking on every page. A cat is shown in a sink, the tail echoing the curved faucet, draped over a radiator or stalking a fly on a glass. Readers who cohabitate with felines will recognize every scene. Simple yet sophisticated this little gem would be treasured by readers of all ages.

Joy (Candlewick, 2020) by Yasmeen Ismail

It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt! Kitten has a ball of red yarn and it’s her favorite toy. An onomatopoetic rhyming play session ensues full of zooms and zams, clops and hops, until a trip, trip, slip, flip results in a bruised kitten, or at least a bruised ego. Her parent comes to the rescue and soothes her until she’s forgotten the hurt and is ready to adventure again. Oh, joy! Jenni Desmond’s mixed media illustrations exude the appropriate joy for Ismail’s rollicking picture book. Anyone who’s watched a kitten (or a young child) at play will appreciate this fun story.

Cat Dog Dog: The Story of a Blended Family (Random House/Schwartz & Wade, 2020) by Nelly Buchet

Blended families come in all shapes. This one features a man and his dog who moves in with a woman and her dog and cat. The story is told almost entirely in the illustrations with the various dog, cat, dog descriptors. There are adjustments to be made in every blended family as the various members learn to adapt to the shifting members and partners, amid lots of humor. Just as things are finally starting to calm down in the blended house a new element, a baby, is added to the mix! The humorous details are in the cartoonish ink illustrations, created by Zuill, who wrote and illustrated one of our favorite books, Sweety (2019). Cat Dog Dog is a current Junior Library Guild Selection, for a very good reason.

Warblers and Woodpeckers – Adult Book Break

Lynn: We love youth books and that is mostly what we read. But now and then it is fun to take a break and dip our toes in adult books. We’ve decided to add a new feature at Bookends – adult books that have a connection to kids, libraries, or the youth book world, and that we think our readers might be interested in. We’re calling it…..Adult Book Break. 

My first recommendation is an adult book by a renown youth author, Sneed B. Collard III, Warblers & Woodpeckers: A Father-Son Big Year of Birding (Mountaineers Books, 2018). In 2016, Collard’s almost 13-year old son, Braden, suggested they do a “Big Year” together. Collard thought about it hard, citing some of the difficulties of such an effort from the physical to the financial. But Braden’s enthusiasm won the day. As Collard notes, “I wondered how much longer he would want to hang around with his dad.” And so it began.

I’ve been a birder all my life, inheriting the interest from my parents, but I am the rankest of amateurs! I have found some birding accounts a bit off-putting and, frankly, snobbish. Sneed Collard’s warm and lively book was accessible, informative, and anything but elitist. Told in a chatty confiding style, the stories of this father-son adventure are down-to-earth, relating triumphs and disasters from killer bee attacks to being stuck in the snow. The pair managed several special trips to important birding areas where they added a plethora of species to their growing lists. The stories of discovering new birds were really inspiring to me and I loved reading about the birding hot spots they experienced. Collard ends the chapters with a list of the birds seen that month and the back matter includes the complete Big Year list for each. There are also wonderful color photographs of birds that both Collards took during the year.

This Big Year experience was a joy to read and I came away feeling both as if I had been along on the trip and also yearning to pack my binoculars and head out immediately for my own Big Year. But the real heart of this book is the story of a father and his young son sharing something truly special. You don’t have to be an expert birder to love that.

Cindy: This was going to be a solo post by Lynn, but she talked about her “year list” all spring and when I headed to Arizona for Spring Break I decided to start my own Life List. By the time I returned to Michigan for the start of spring migration and the warblers started to dazzle me, I was hooked. It was fun to read about Sneed and Braden’s adventures as I had fresh memories of a couple of their Arizona hot spots. A Saguaro National Park ranger suggested I drive south an hour to Madera Canyon, and it was worth it!

I enjoyed their stories and their bonding over birds, and the peek into the birding research world through some of Collard’s contacts for his books. I appreciated Braden’s tenacity and enjoyment in building his list. Both father and son were hungry for the numbers, but their love of their special year together and their love and respect for the birds came shining through the text as well.

Queued up for this weekend is my first viewing of Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson’s 2011 film, The Big Year. It’s what got Braden into wanting to do his “Big Year,” so I figured I should add it to my list. Braden and Sneed (and the rest of the fam), you have an open invitation to come to West Michigan to bird with Lynn and me. There’s 380+ species in our county alone (Ottawa, MI). We have lots of gorgeous hot spots to show you!

For the children birders on your list, don’t miss our recent post, New Picture Books About Birds Take Flight. Sneed’s new book Birds of Every Color is included in the roundup.