Cats: An annotated reading list

J. and I had a wonderful time last night. We ended up going out with very good friends to a nearly-new seafood restaurant in Chicago and ate our weight in crab, lobster, mussels, etc. It was very good and the company even better. Our friends even brought some champagne along. (It was BYOB.) We had such a good time that we ended up closing down the place. Yes, they turned the lights out as soon as we exited through the door. It was a great way to celebrate 25 years, especially since these friends have been a part of our lives for 20 of them. (Thanks, P Family!)

In other news, Nefertiti is settling in. All three animals have the run of the house now and Kenzie has stopped barking at the new cat and the new cat has stopped hissing (it's an impressive hiss) at all four-legged residents. She is also showing herself to be a true lap cat. If you sit down for any length of time, there is a good chance she will end up in your lap and purr. Just what I hoped for. Her name, though seems to be a bit fluid. While her official name is Nefertiti, more often than not, the little (and some not so little people) end up calling her Fat Cat. As in, "Look! I'm strong enough to pick up Fat Cat!" Another child evidently has 'Nefertiti' and 'Aphrodite' filed in the same folder in his brain and Aphrodite usually is what comes out first. To save effort, he has decided that he will just call her Aphrodite. This is what comes of teaching your children ancient history. Nefertiti seems happy enough with her new family, though I think she wishes the food were more plentiful.

Speaking of cats, I want to introduce you to a new blog project I've been planning. When I was younger I kind of assumed that I would be a librarian. I loved books. I loved reading. I even cataloged my own personal library during the middle period of grade school. I also loved recommending books to people... and still do. (There's a connection between all of this, I promise.) Prompted by several emails I've received from grandmothers thanking me for the book recommendations which they use to supply their grandchildren with books, I've decided to occasionally take a topic and create an annotated book list based on that topic. This is my compromise position to a bigger project of creating an occasional unit study based on a topic and posting it on my blog. I love the process, but perhaps don't have quite enough time to do that particular project properly.

Thus, my inaugural annotated reading list topic will be.... Cats! (See, I told you there was a connection.) With the new cat joining our family, people around here have been all about cats and it is fresh in my mind. I'm happy to take suggestions for future topics as well. I should also add that I do not even begin to imagine that this is a definite list, just the books I'm aware of and that we like. (Oh, and I think legally I have to say every so often that the links are to my Amazon Associates account and I receive a teeny tiny bit of money if those links are used for purchases.)

Picture Books

The Zoom Trilogy: Zoom at Sea - Zoom Away - Zoom Upstream by Tim Wynne-Jones -- This is probably the least well known on my list. These are charming stories about a little white cat (named Zoom), whose uncle is a sea captain and who longs to go to sea. He does go to sea in the first book, followed by trips to Ancient Egypt and the North Pole in the following stories. The style is magic realism for the picture book crowd and they have been highly popular around here. More people should know about them.

Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag -- A much older book, but one my children have enjoyed. A little old man goes in search of a kitten for his wife. Not being able to choose which cat is the prettiest, hundreds, thousands, millions, and billions of cats follow him home. When asked to choose among themselves which is the prettiest, they eventually eat each other up, leaving one sad, scared little kitten. The pictures are fun and the rhythm of the book makes it enjoyable to read out loud. (Though with our older children we sometimes discuss that one little white kitten who was left.... we don't trust him.)

Papa Piccolo by Carol Talley -- This was a newer discovery for us a couple of years ago. A tom cat in Venice suddenly finds himself in charge of three kittens. It is a cute story with Venice definitely being one of the characters.

Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel -- I'm adding this book because it was so popular with some of my girls. I'm not entirely sure what the appeal is, but I'm pretty sure that J. and I read it hundreds of times in the month we had it out of the library. We eventually started hiding it just to give us a break every now and then. It doubles as a kind of alphabet book with the list of things the bad kitty did being organized as an alphabet list. It is incredibly silly, but evidently hits just the right note for 7 - 10 year olds. (I would highly recommend checking this one out of the library so that if it drives you as batty as it did me, you always have a due date to save you.)

Cats by Seymour Simon - We are huge Seymour Simon fans around here. His photographic non-fiction books for children are excellent and filled with gorgeous photography. This title is no exception and everyone enjoyed looking at the photos of cute cats as well as learning about them.

Easy Readers - Is there any animal more suited to being the subject of easy readers? C-A-T is practically the first word a child learns to sound out. There are many, many, many options out there. These are just our favorites.

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Suess -- I wasn't sure I should even add this to the list since it seems self-evident. Is there even anyone out there who hasn't heard of it? I would be very surprised. But it is still one of the best easy readers out there and doesn't grow old. Depending on how often I've read it or heard it read in a week, I do find, though, that my speech patterns start to mimic the rhythm of the book.

Pete the Cat by James Dean -- This is a new series for us. I found it when I was looking for birthday gifts and so far G. has enjoyed them. She particularly likes the little carrying case all the small books come in.

Early Chapter Books (for early independent readers)

Catwings by Ursula K. Le Guin -- The first of a series (always a plus for this age), it introduces cats who have wings and their adventures. Most of my children have loved these books upon reaching this stage of reading. Plus, they are well-written by a good author.

Chapter Books (For an independent reader or as a read aloud... it really depends on the child.)

Socks by Beverly Cleary -- The adventures of a little black cat told by Beverly Cleary in her wonderful style. Parts can feel a little dated since it was originally written 1973, but it doesn't detract from the story told from the cat's point of view.

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden -- I know, it's not a cricket list, but Harry the Cat is a key player in this story about a mouse who lives in the New York Subway system. This is one of my favorite books from my childhood and I am always excited when I have a child who is ready to read it. Plus, once you've read this one, you've met the characters and can then ready Harry Cat's Pet Puppy.

Freddy the Detective by Walter R. Brooks -- Once again, though the title character is not a cat (he's a pig) Jinx the cat plays a key role in the narrative of this book and all the subsequent ones. If you haven't discovered this series you are missing out. They are loads of fun, if a little silly. We have traveled many, many miles listening to these books on recording.

Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech -- Like its predecessor, Love That Dog, this book is told in poetic form. Each part of the story is told in a different poetic form, based on the style of poem the class in the book is studying. It sounds a bit odd, but works exceptionally well. Highly recommended.

I'm editing to add the adult selection that I forgot I was going to share. (I'll also come back and add books to the correct categories as I come across them... I can't help myself. I like a complete list.)


"Good-bye to All Cats" by P.G. Wodehouse -- This is a short story that was originally published in the collection called Young Men in Spats and is a Drones Club story. If you have never read any PG Wodehouse, you really, really need to get yourself to a library and check some out. It is terribly funny and this particular short story is possibly my favorite out of all of them, the Jeeves and Wooster stories included. I find it completely laugh out loud funny. I love it so much that if I ever have the chance to name a male cat, his name is going to be Freddy Widgen just because of this story. Do yourself a favor and go find a copy.


Erika said…
I love this idea, and plan to check some of these out at the library in the near future. I noticed how you added an age range to a few of these, which is really helpful. Would it be too much to ask for that information for all of the books? It is fairly clear that the picture books are for reading aloud to younger kids, but for some of the others it was not so clear (age range, for read alouds or beginning readers? etc.). Thank you for sharing this amazing list!
Anonymous said…
I feel like I'd always end up calling her Neferkiti!
thecurryseven said…
Erika -- I went back and tried to define my categories a little bit more. I'm not sure I can help with actual ages because (despite what the public schools would have you believe) children become adept readers at such varying ages. I hope my notes help a little bit.

And... Neferkiti... (snort) I love it. I may end up using it now and then. :-)


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