World Kid *Cat* Lit

by Paula Holmes

I was a reader of cat books long before I ever had a cat.  Esther Averill’s Cat Club books starring Jenny the cat – with her red scarf were my favorites. Even now my bookshelves are full of cats, making finding a theme to highlight for the WorldKidLit blog easy, but choosing which titles to highlight, difficult. As a habit, I have always put aside my favorite books of the current year. Looking at the stack, the cats pounced out; a translator named Lynx, the latest from publisher Enchanted Lion. Big cats, little cats, twins that turn into cats and djinns who are sometimes cats.  I wonder how they all say meow.  Let me know your favorite cat tale (or is it tail?)  Here are three I am loving right now.

Thunderbird Book One

Written by Sonia Nimr (Palestinian)
Translated by M. Lynx Qualey
Translated from Arabic
Published by The University of Texas Press, 2022

While it wasn’t typically a publisher on my radar, it is now. University of Texas Press has several children’s books as part of their Center for Middle Eastern Studies series: Emerging Voices from the Middle East. Thunderbird is the first in a middle grade fantasy series rooted in historical settings and events.  After hearing the totally spellbinding Marcia Lynx Qualey read a selection, I needed the rest of the story. It captures the reader from the start when a soaring bird is foretold in the coffee grounds of Noor, a Palestinian girl’s cup. Mysterious fires keep breaking out around Noor leading to her to discover a power that she must learn to control. A connection to her dead mother’s work and a need to travel back in time are all entwined in this tale. Yes, there’s a cat. A black cat finds Noor at her aunt’s house, “The cat just kept walking, turning its head now and then to make sure Noor was still behind her.” Oh, but wait, the cat named Sabeeka, is also a Djinn. My love of maps, research, and food required little breaks to reference to places and recipes in the book. I love plotting an adventure on a map. Thunderbird does not disappoint, and I can’t wait for book two to come out this October.  

Chirri & Chirra, In the Night

Written and Illustrated by Kaya Doi
Translated by David Boyd
Translated from Japanese [Japan] 
Published by Enchanted Lion Books, 2022

The Chirri & Chirra series is a confectionary delight. The vibrant color of Kaya Doi’s joyful pencil drawings are showcased on heavyweight paper, (just the size of an artist’s sketchbook) giving the feel that Enchanted Lion Books is entrusting the reader with the original. Nature and animals are a hallmark of this wonderful Japanese series.  David Boyd’s translation of the twins’ adventure, never without their bikes, invites a new audience to explore the imaginative world that Kaya Doi has created. Previous titles have only a glimpse or two of cats, but Chirri & Chirra, In the Night is a cat-focused adventure and one that Chirri & Chirra fans don’t want to miss. If you are new to Chirri & Chirra, each book stands alone, so this is a perfect place to start.  I am sure that readers will want to recreate the magical drink and cookies, and, of course, reading with your cat ears on only adds to the fun.

At the Drop of a Cat

Written by Élise Fontenaille
Illustrated by Violeta Lópiz 
Translated by Karin Snelson & Emilie Robert Wong
Translated from French [France] 
Published by Enchanted Lion Books, 2022

New from Enchanted Lion Books is At the Drop of a Cat, a play on language.  Violeta Lópiz uses the technique of painting on transparencies and then layering the transparencies to create fabulous illustrations.  Just like the layered illustrations, there is so much depth in this story. The loving relationship between a grandson and grandfather, make it a perfect book for an intergenerational storytime. This is also a story of words, art, and music; of spending time together in the garden; and of a grandchild learning to read, something their grandfather did not have the opportunity to learn. I didn’t forget the cat – grandfather’s black cat Diabola is woven throughout the illustrations. You will have fun looking for Diabola hiding in the layers. I found myself reading At the Drop of a Cat over and over again. 

Meet Paula Holmes

Paula Holmes has served in a variety of volunteer capacities for the Association for Library Service to Children (a division of the American Library Association) and is currently the Co-Chair for ALSC 2023 President’s Program and a member of the Budget Committee. She also serves on the USBBY 2023 Dorothy Briley Lecture Committee. Paula is currently taking ballet to improve her interpretative dancing, creating tiny collage art, reading translations of children’s literature, and still attempting to learn Finnish.  Her cat Seraphina, who showed up at the door one cold day, lounged on all books discussed and with a few pokes of a single claw, said that the most important and intriguing cat was right in front of yours truly.

You can follow her on Twitter at @qsprite