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  • 2007 Wanda Gág Read Aloud Honor Books

    My Cat, the Silliest Cat in the World written and illustrated by Gilles Bachelet, and published by Abrams Books for Young Readers. Originally published as Mon chat le plus bête du monde by Éditions du Seuil in 2004. Translated from French.

    My Cat, the Silliest Cat in the WorldA painter, appearing in a dressing gown, narrates this story about his very fat, sweet, and silly cat. According to the straightforward text, the cat especially likes to eat, sleep, and keep clean. The very funny illustrations show the “cat” engaged in all of the above activities, except that this cat is actually an elephant! The elephant is often shown in a series of vignettes, such as those that describe his cleanliness. The colorful paintings enhanced with pen-and-ink portray him licking himself clean, spraying himself with toilet water, and sweeping his elephantine body with a vacuum cleaner.

    Children from the ages of two through eight enjoyed this book. During the reading, one two-year-old walked up to touch the elephant on the page several times. Kindergartners especially liked this unique story. The students kept saying “It’s not a cat!” and then laughed and pointed at what they found funny. The kindergartners, who wanted the book read again and again “could have looked at the illustrations forever.”

    Gilles Bachelet lives in Cambrai, France where he has taught illustration at the École Supérieure d'Art.

    One Potato, Two Potato written by Cynthia DeFelice, illustrated by Andrea U'Ren, and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

    One Potato, Two PotatoMr. and Mrs. Grady, who are elderly, poor, and lonely, live in a small cottage with just one of every thing: one coat, one blanket, one chair. Their garden on a bare, rocky hillside yields one potato per day. This is the couple’s breakfast, lunch, and supper. One day while digging in the potato patch, Mr. Grady finds a huge, black pot. He carries it home to show his wife, and they soon discover that whatever is dropped in it is doubled. One hairpin, one potato, and one cold coin each become two. When Mrs. Grady accidentally falls into the pot, her husband pulls out two identical wives. To make things even, Mr. Grady jumps in and also gets doubled. Now they have their greatest wish, each has a friend. The couples decide they now have everything they could ever want and so bury the magic pot for someone else to find. Pen and gouache illustrations in earthy tones emphasize the couple’s poverty.

    Children from ages four through nine listened intently to this story and enjoyed chanting “one potato, two potato.” They found the story exciting and liked making predictions about the magic pot. They also laughed at the illustrations of Mrs. Grady falling into the pot and Mr. Grady jumping in. Readers appreciated the theme of receiving, but not abusing, good fortune. Teachers noted that the book is helpful for learning the mathematical concept of doubling.

    Author Cynthia DeFelice lives in Geneva NY, and illustrator Andrea U’Ren makes her home in Portland, OR.

    365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental, illustrated by Joëlle Jolivet, and published by Abrams Books for Young Readers. Originally published as 365 Pingouins by Naïve Livres. Translated from French.

    365 PenguinsA family of four receives a special delivery on New Year’s Day, one penguin from an undisclosed sender. As the year proceeds another penguin is delivered every day. As the number of penguins increases so do the family’s problems. How can they house hundreds of penguins? How can they afford the fish to feed them? How can they keep them cool in the summer?

    This story combines a lesson on global warming with numerous math problems. For example, Daddy figures out he can store 216 penguins in a cube until penguin 217 is delivered. The story also becomes a game of “I spy” when blue-footed Chilly penguin arrives.

    The large format (37 x 29 centimeters), cartoon-style illustrations in blue, orange, and black, and the large font size all work well together for a read aloud. Teachers valued the book for its science and math concepts, while children liked the humor and enjoyed predicting what will happen as the family acquires more and more penguins. The book was a hit with children ages three through nine.
    Jean-Luc Fromental and Joëlle Jolivet are both from France.