A Girl, A Boy And A Monster Cat by Gail Gauthier, illustrated by Joe Cepeda. ARC supplied by author. Publication date June 2007.
The Plot. A girl. A boy. A monster cat.
OK, there's more than that, but I couldn't resist. As an aside, since the title reminds me of my blog name, I now have to refer to this book as Monster Cat.
Brandon's ideal afterschool activity? Watching TV. Hannah's ideal afterschool activity? Hunting dinosaurs (aka turkeys) in the backyard, sailing a pirate ship (tree in the backyard), saving the world from her monster cat (aka Buttercup.)
Hannah's mom babysits for Brandon after school three days a week. So Brandon gets dragged into Hannah's school games. With surprising and amusing results.
The Good: Gauthier brings the funny. The humor is often very dry; for example, when Brandon describes Hannah he says "Her games are like really bad TV shows. Only you can't turn the channel to something better because you're part of the show."
Brandon often likes Hannah's games, tho he won't always admit it. Especially since Hannah has the knack of pushing the game a wee bit too far. And of giving Brandon the worst part of the game. Often, the cat has a better role than Brandon.
Part of the humor is from Hannah herself; she is blunt, confident, and has no idea she may rub someone the wrong way. Upon meeting the new neighbor, Hannah asks "is your house haunted?" Brandon recognizes that the new neighbor does the equivalent of back away slowly from Hannah; Hannah herself has no idea that she's scared the neighbor.
Monster Cat is under 9o pages; and perfect for the "just finished easy readers, scared off by how long chapter books are now that everyone thinks they have to compete with Harry Potter" crowd. Brandon and Hannah are in third grade; and this will be a fun read for younger grades.
Monster Cat is the perfect book to show that reading is fun. In addition to the manageable overall length, the individual chapters are short, each one able to stand alone as a short story (there is an overall story arc, also); and Cepeda's illustrations are amusing. (Hey, I just realized he did the illustrations for one of my favorite picture books ever!)
What else? I like that this is one of those books that creates Drama from the everyday life of real kids. At it's heart, it's about two imaginative kids, their neighborhood, a cat, a dog.
More info on the origins of Monster Cat (first in a series) at Gail's website.
Gail's blog, Original Content.