"All books are either dreams or swords,/You can cut, or you can drug, with words." - Amy Lowell, 'Sword Blades and Poppy Seed'

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Children's/YA: April's Kittens

Newberry, Clare Turlay. April's Kittens. Troll Associates, 1969.

A book about April, a girl who lives with her parents and cat, Sheba, in a one-cat apartment. However, what happens when Sheba has three kittens?  April's father insists that three cats must go. What will April do when she falls in love with one of the kittens? Does she keep Sheba or the kitten? (original description).

Overall Rating: ****(out of five)

  • Story. This story emphasizes one of the most important aspects of family life: compromise.  The best part, however, is that we see compromise from both the child and the parents, which teaches the importance and equality of every member of the family.
  • Illustrations. The illustrations of the book are absolutely beautiful.  They are simply black, white, and pink, and their softness is nearly tactile.  You just want to pick up the kittens and cuddle with them.
  • Story to Illustration Ratio. For small children who cannot yet read, the story is what they hear their parents saying and the pictures they see on the page. I feel as though the book might be more effective for kids who can't read if it had more illustrations.

I love this book, and I always enjoyed reading it growing up. The only pets I'd had were fish, and I loved cats and wished I could have some.  The illustrations seemed so real, I wanted to take the kittens home with me.  However, I think the story could benefit from some more drawings. The more pictures there are, the more the child can involve herself in the story. After all, children may need parents to read the story, but they don't need parents to interpret the illustrations for them.

The story also illustrates a very healthy give and take between the child and parents in this family. As the Rolling Stones are quick to remind us, you can't always get what you want. but they also add that sometimes you get what you need. April learns that he needs to make the choice her parents' rules force her to make. But when she brings herself to make that decision, her parents meet her halfway and in the end the choice doesn't have to be made. The story subtly emphasizes the maturity required to make such a tough decision, and April is rewarded for being grown-up enough to make it. In the end, it's a beautiful book that is a wonderful lesson for both children and adults.

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