Small in the City

Smith, Sydney. Small in the City. Toronto: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2019.
The best picture books have illustrations that are an integral part of the story. The best stories let you feel what it is like to be in someone else’s situation. Small in the City starts with four pages of pictures showing a bundled-up little boy on a bus before the first sentence appears – “I know what it is like…” – and continues as he walks along cold snowy streets, looking everywhere – in alleyways, in fenced yards with angry dogs, under bushes and up in bare-limbed trees, past a fishmonger’s and an empty lot, by a red brick church and a bench in a park – as the snow gets thicker and thicker. Finally, in a sign he’s posted on a light standard, we discover to whom he is talking: his cat, who is lost. The words in the story become fewer again and the illustrations become snowier until the hopeful words, “But I know you. You will be all right.”
The design of this book is brilliant. The style of the illustrations, the size and style of the font, the placement of the sentences on the pages are all perfect. The concept of this book is powerful: a main character imagining life from the point of view of someone else whom he loves. Readers will feel the desperate worry mixed with hope that everyone who has ever had a pet can all too vividly imagine. Most highly recommended for anyone who loves picture books (or cats).

More stories set in winter

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Wild

Usher, Sam. Wild. Somerville, Massachusetts: Templar Books, an imprint of Candlewick Press, 2021.
A picture book by Candlewick is always worth picking up. This picture book is such fun that it’s worth picking up again and again. At least it is if you know cats. And like cats. A little boy wakes up to a ‘take care of the cat’ day with his grandfather. Sounds easy. Until the cat arrives with its own ideas. Like all great picture books, the illustrations – full of delightful details – tell as much as the words. Highly recommended for cat lovers 4 to 11 years old. P.S. If you have a new baby in the house, you might like to read this book, too. 

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Addy’s Cup of Sugar

Muth, Jon J. Addy’s Cup of Sugar: Based on a Buddhist Story of Healing. New York: Scholastic Press, 2020.
How do we carry on after a loved one has died? That is the question in another picture book about grief. Similar to The Boy and the Gorilla, this story depicts a helper. Stillwater, a giant panda who has appeared in previous books by Jon Muth, teaches Addy how to recover from grief after her beloved kitten is hit by a car. She is sent to borrow a cup of sugar from someone who has never experienced loss. By the end of the day, she realizes that everyone has suffered the desolation of losing loved ones. She is not alone in her pain. And she still has a heart full of loving memories. This story, with its full-page watercolour and pencil illustrations, will appeal to readers of all ages and all faiths. Highly recommended. 

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The Cats in Krasinski Square

Hesse, Karen. The Cats in Krasinski Square. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2004. 
Inside the Wall of the Ghetto, and inside the cracks, dark corners, and openings in the rubble, are cats who’ve lost their owners. It is dangerous here. You cannot act Jewish. A girl and her sister, Mira, have almost no food. So one day, they decide to get their friends – who live beyond The Wall – to help them secretly smuggle bags of food into the Ghetto. But on the day the train is to come, they get news that the Gestapo knows of the train and the food! They are bringing their dogs. The girl has a slightly dangerous plan. She scurries over to the rubble and collects the cats in baskets. Then they all hurry over to the train station. The train comes, and the dogs are let loose. But what else is let loose? The cats! The dogs immediately lose interest in the train and begin chasing the poor cats! What chaos! A few minutes later, the girl and sister happily walk home in the night with bags of food. – Eishmeet in grade 6   

Listen to the story on Youtube 

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Houndsley and Catina and Cousin Wagster

Howe, James. Houndsley and Catina and Cousin Wagster. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2018.
Houndsley enthusiastically welcomes his adventurous cousin Wagster. But his feelings start to deflate when his best friend Catina turns her attentions to fun-loving Wagster. What will happen? Will Wagster ruin everything? This heart-warming story illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay is sure to appeal to readers 4 to 8 years old. 

More novels for young readers

The Cat Who Came in off the Roof

Dear Reader,

Is it time to read something lighthearted? Something fantastical that makes you laugh?  Try this crazy novel about a cat who turns into a woman!

Schmidt, Annie M.G. The Cat Who Came in off the Roof. New York: Delacorte Press, [2016], c2014.

A shy reporter is about to lose his job. He can never come up with a good story for his newspaper. Until he meets Miss Minou, that is. All of a sudden, she is telling him all sorts of things that are going on in the neighbourhood, all sorts of information that he can turn into newsworthy stories.

This 149-page novel by a Dutch author is not difficult to read. But it very easy to enjoy. If you like cats and don’t mind a hint of romance, curl up in a corner and have fun with this story.

Ms. R.

More cat stories