Sonderbooks Stand-out

Sonderbooks Book Review of

Katie Loves the Kittens

by John Himmelman


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Katie Loves the Kittens

by John Himmelman

Reviewed April 25, 2010.
Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2008. 32 pages.
Starred Review
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2010: #1 Picture Books

I discovered this book when browsing through our New Books at the library for books to read at my Drop-in Storytime. I read it to the group, and believe I have found one of my new favorite picture books. This book, in both words and illustrations, is absolutely brilliant!

Katie is a dog, an exuberant, friendly, and loving dog, with a tail that is usually wagging vigorously. Here is how the story begins:

Today was the most exciting day in Katie's whole life! Sara Ann had brought home three little kittens.

Katie loved those kittens so much. As soon as she saw them, she howled, "AROOOOOO! AROOOOOO!" She always howled like that when she was very happy.

Unfortunately, Katie's enthusiasm frightens the kittens, drawn as tiny little fluffy things climbing to get away from Katie. Sara Ann has to scold Katie and tell her to stay away from the kittens until they get used to her. Poor Katie is sad.

Later, Sara Ann is playing with the kittens, and Katie wants to play with them, too. "She just loved them so much." One of my favorite pages is the page of Katie trying to control herself. Her tail is wagging so fast it's almost invisible, and her whole body is shaking as she tries to quell her enthusiasm.

But Katie couldn't stop herself any longer.

She burst into the room. The kittens scattered.

"AROOOOO! AROOOOO!" she howled as she chased them around the room.

Poor Katie. More misadventures follow, springing out of Katie's enthusiastic overflowing love. Another favorite part is when Katie walks into the kitchen the next morning.

Three bowls of food waited for her.

She ate the first bowl. Mmmm, this is good, she thought.

She ate the second bowl.

Yummyummyummyum, she thought.

[And you should see her tail wag!]

Of course, the reader has no trouble guessing who the three bowls of food were for! Poor Katie feels worse than ever.

So I've almost gotten you through the whole book, but I'll just summarize the end by saying that eventually the kittens do get used to Katie, and Katie manages to control herself and let them get close. The final picture has Katie playing with the three kittens, with one of them caught up in her wagging tail.

This book is an absolutely delightful twist on the new-baby-or-new-pet in the house story. In this story, the "big sister" doesn't resent the new pets, but she does have to learn to express her enthusiasm in appropriate ways. It's a story that attributes emotions to a dog, and the emotions seem completely doglike and realistic.

I'd recommend this book to people with a new baby or a new pet, or to dog lovers. Of course, I'm not any of those things, and I love this book, so I will also recommend it to anyone who enjoys a picture book that tells a fun story with the perfect combination of pictures and words. This one will make you smile. And for reading aloud, you can easily get kids involved, joining in with Katie's AROOOOOOs.