Meow: Cat Stories from Around the World by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Hala Wittwer - I want to adopt all of the cats depicted within these pages. The illustrations by Hala Wittwer deserve many, many awards. Look at the picture here or here.
The Cinder-Eyed Cats by Eric Rohmann - Eric always creates gorgeous, magical illustrations and stories that read like lullabies. I would adopt the cute tiger-like cinder-eyed cats seen in this book.
Cat Dreams by Ursula K. LeGuin, illustrated by S.D. Schindler - A positively (pawsitively?) lovely picture book told from the cat's point of view as s/he leaps, naps, dreams of endless cream and kibble, wakes, and seeks out the lap of his/her human.
Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes - A kitten thinks the full moon is a bowl of milk. This Caldecott Medalist has lovely black and white illustrations.
The Secret Life of Walter Kitty by Barbara Jean Hicks, illustrated by Dan Santat - Another kitty with big aspirations. I think I'm including it because it reminds me of Tom the TV Cat and because of its obvious nod to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Read my interview with the author.
The Oscar books by Geoff Waring
- Oscar and the Moth: A Book about Light and Dark (Take a peek)
- Oscar and the Frog: A Book about Growing (Take a peek)
- Oscar and the Cricket: A Book about Moving and Rolling (Take a peek)
- Oscar and the Bat: A Book about Sound (Take a peek)
This series offers a great combination of text and pictures, with facts woven gently into the story as curious Oscar asks questions about the world and how things work. I discovered the first book at the library and keep checking for the installments. Also, apparently, Oscar and the Frog is available as a book + DVD set. The purrtagonist is adorable. I especially like the heart-shaped patch of gray fur on his hip. That, combined with the fact that he is based on a real cat, named Oskar with a k, makes him all the more endearing to me.
The Dragon books by Dav Pilkey - Each book has multiple, connected stories. In Dragon's Fat Cat, Dragon makes a new friend. Before the book is through - spoiler alert! - she has a litter of five kittens. The mother cat and kittens feature into later stories in other Dragon collections as well. (Note: Some stores and libraries may have these books shelved in beginning readers.)
Hondo and Fabian and Fabian Escapes by Peter McCarty - The story of a dog and cat who are friends. They belong to the same family and live in the same house, but go on very different adventures. Beautiful, soft colours and funny happenings.
There are Cats in this Book by Viviane Schwarz - Three lovable cats speak directly to the reader, asking him or her to turn the flaps and the pages to discover food, fun, and cat naps. With its breaking of the fourth wall, primary colours, and very cute illustrations, I give this book four stars (or four paws!)
Minifred Goes to School by Mordicai Gerstein - A delightful story about a little orange kitten who is raised by a human couple as their daughter and decides to go to school like the other kids, only to find that school has rules...which kittens don't always follow.
Tom the TV Cat by Joan Heilbroner - A little cat with big dreams. One of my favorite beginning reader stories ever.
The Mittens books by Lola Schaefer, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung
- Follow Me, Mittens
- What's That, Mittens?
Easy-to-read stories about a gray-and-white kitten.
Scat, Cats! by Joan Holub, illustrated by Rich Davis
A Level 1 reader in which more than a dozen cats run rampant, much to the chagrin and delight of a little girl and a little boy.
Why Do Cats Meow? by Joan Holub
A non-fiction easy reader supplies answers to questions about cats: Why do cats meow? Why do cats purr? Why do cats hiss? How many claws do they have? The pages are peppered with illustrations and photographs by various artists.
Early Chapter Books
The Catwings series by Ursula LeGuin - Cats. With wings. Flying around the city. Need I say more? Look at the cuteness.
The Rumblewick Diaries by Hiawyn Oram, illustrated by Sarah Warburton - From the point of view of a cat, Rumblewick, who becomes the familiar to a young witch. Rumblewick chronicles his attempts to steer his kooky charge in the right direction. So far, I've only read #1: My Unwilling Witch Goes to Ballet School, which I thought was adorable. Note: This series is called The Rumblewick Letters in the UK.
Elementary School Fiction
The Dancing Cats of Applesap by Janet Taylor Lisle, illustrated by Joelle Shefts - These cats put their town on the map! If you like cats, you simply must read this book. Put it this way: it does for cats what Because of Winn-Dixie does for dogs. Shefts' illustrations definitely compliment the adorable story. See the cover of the 2002 edition, drawn by Tony DiTerlizzi.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman - This intriguing and creepy book is just right for John Bellairs fans of all ages. I recommend it to adults as often as I recommend it to kids. If this book had been released when I was a child, I would have read it as often as I read The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. When Coraline moves into a new apartment with her parents, she meets some odd neighbors, then discovers another building across the way that is a slightly twisted version of her own. An unnamed stray black cat becomes her White Rabbit, if you will, accompanying Coraline on her journey, but only able to speak English when they are in the alternate place. Coraline was a book first, then subsequently made into a graphic novel and an animated feature film. Read my review of Coraline.
Gaby, Lost and Found by Angela Cervantes - Sixth grader Gaby Ramirez Howard wants nothing more than for her mother, who was deported three months ago, to come home. When her class begins volunteering at the local no-kill animal shelter, Gaby feels an immediate connection to Feather, a fragile little cat who was abandoned by her owners. This book is incredibly sweet. Read my review of Gaby, Lost and Found.
The Just Grace books by Charise Mericle Harper - A funny series following third-grader Grace through her well-meaning antics. At school, there are three other Graces, and, when the teacher wants to distinguish between them, she ends up being called Just Grace. At home, in addition to her family members, she also befriends a sophisticated boarder and her neighbor's cat, Crinkle. His disappearance (and subsequent reappearance, thank goodness) is a huge part of the first book's plot.
- Just Grace
- Still Just Grace
- Just Grace Walks the Dog is due out in April 2008. I'm hoping for more cuteness.
The May Bird trilogy by Jodi Lynn Anderson - This supernatural sequence introduces readers to a young girl named May Bird and her loyal sidekick Somber Kitty. When May Bird accidentally falls into the Ever After, the hairless Somber Kitty follows her. What happens to Kitty? If you want to know, leave a comment below. Read my reviews of the books, which I consider to be the offspring of Alice in Wonderland and Beetlejuice.
The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden, illustrated by Garth Williams - A talented cricket named Chester travels from Massachusetts to New York City and befriends a boy named Mario Bellini, a cat named Harry, and a mouse named Tucker. Selden wrote seven books featuring these critters:
- The Cricket in Times Square
- Tucker's Countryside
- Harry Cat's Pet Puppy
- Chester Cricket's Pigeon Ride
- Chester Cricket's New Home
- Harry Kitten and Tucker Mouse
- The Old Meadow
Middle School Fiction
In the Cards trilogy by Mariah Fredericks - Three best friends inherit cats in this cute trilogy. The cats aren't the main plot line, but they quickly wiggle their way into the girls' hearts. Warning: One cat is ill.
- In the Cards: Love
- In the Cards: Fame
- In the Cards: Life
Bad Apple by Laura Ruby - Contemporary realistic fiction. Though some might say the main character's pet cat is not vital to the storyline, I felt that Pib (short for Puss-in-Books) was important. Not only did his storyline connect Tola to the nosy neighbors (and, later, to a particularly interesting peer), but Pib was very much a part of Tola's family. Each of Tola's relatives brought out something different in her, like anger, frustration, acceptance, or confusion, and her grandfather and her cat offer her many of the things she needs, such as friendship, solace, and sounding boards.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll - In the first book, Alice's cat Dinah is merely a peripheral character, only seen at the start and the close of the book, though Alice mentions her to Wonderland creatures. The Cheshire Cat has become so well-known that many people don't realize how infrequently he appears in the actual story. (Speaking of which, look at Hala Wittwer's gorgeous print of Alice and the Cheshire Cat.) In the sequel, Dinah has kittens. She and her brood appear at the start and at the close of the book. Read the books and see John Tenniel's original illustrations via Google Books and Project Gutenberg.
The Story of Miss Moppet and The Tale of Tom Kitten by Beatrix Potter - A mouse does a jig. Cats make mischief. Good times, good times.
The Old Gumbie Cat by T.S. Eliot
The Naming of Cats by T.S. Eliot
Cats Sleep Anywhere by Eleanor Farjeon
How a Cat Was Annoyed and a Poet Was Booted by by Guy Wetmore Carryl
The Cat by Ted Hughes as posted at Big A little a
The true story of Scarlett, a cat who went back into a burning building to save her kittens, has inspired multiple titles:
Hero Cat by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Jo Ellen McAllister Stammen (picture book)
The Bravest Cat! by Laura Driscoll, illustrated by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan (beginning reader)
Scarlett Saves Her Family: The Heart-Warming True Story of a Homeless Mother Cat Who Rescued Her Kittens From a Raging Fire by Jane Martin and J.C. Suarès (non-fiction; with real photographs)
Her story is also featured in Cat Book by Emily Eve Weinstein, another non-fiction release.
The Gift of Nothing and Just Like Heaven by Patrick McDonnell - McDonnell's artwork, like his characters, are simple, sweet, and cute. These original stories, based on the popular comic strip Mutts starring Mooch the cat and Earl the dog, might even be more popular with adults than with kids.
Well-Written Stories with Unhappy Endings
These books might make you cry. You have been warned. Read them at your own risk.
Lovingly Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor - The author wrote three prequels: Starting with Alice, Alice in Blunderland, and Lovingly Alice. An adorable kitten named Oatmeal was introduced in Starting With Alice. You can even see Oatmeal on the front and back covers. Then, in Lovingly Alice, something happened which tore my heart out. Read my post about the Alice McKinley book series. Read my article about book covers that really suit the stories.
A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass - A cat named Mango is very important to both the protagonist and the storyline. Read my full-length review of this book as well as other novels by Mass.
The Broccoli Tapes by Jan Slepian - The ending of this story traumatized me - so why did I read this book multiple times?Probably because I knew it wouldn't happen to my cats, as we didn't live in Hawai'i, we didn't have a pool, and we weren't near any bodies of water. Still, traumatizing.
The works of Cleveland Amory - I should never read non-fiction stories about cats. I read these books when I was very little, then I hugged my cat with all of my might and cried into her fur.
I wrote a piece entitled Favorite Fictional Felines for the August 2006 edition of The Edge of the Forest.
I also prepared a booklist for Be Kind to Animals Week.
My cats are the best cats ever. They meow, they dance with me, they sit on my books, and they nap far more easily than I do. They are the only kids I'll ever have. I miss them like crazy.
Trivia time: I live a society where 32%* of households include a cat and 37% own a dog, but that figure is not represented accurately on TV, in films, or in books. there's no way that pets appear in a third of the books I read. That is an utter shame.
* Statistics from AVMA, Market research statistics, U.S. pet ownership, 2007.
Thanks, Addie, for prompting this list. Please hug your many adorable cats for me.