Maurina's Reading Recommendations
The nicest place to read in our house is on the sofa. However, the sofa is Marina's realm. If you tell her how beautiful she is, and scratch her a bit behind the ears, she will let you join her. Here are some of our favorite cat books, loosely organized by reading ability from children's books up. Some of them may be out of print. Your local librarian or local bookshop might be able to track them down. If all else fails, we include a link to Amazon, which sells used books and ebooks as well as new.
Kat Kong! by Dav Pilkey
A giant black tuxedo cat towers over the city of Mousopolis! For the mouse population, there is nothing more frightening than a hungry cat.
I heard somewhere that the tuxedo cat in this picture book and the dog in its companion story, Dogzilla, are Dav Pilkey’s actual pets. Or perhaps that is just another urban legend. Either way, the collage artwork of pet photos and hand-drawn cityscape is always fun and interesting.
The story is sweet and not too scary, so it’s great for younger kids. Older kids and adults will love the language and jokes.
The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
I'd heard about this Newberry Winner long ago, but I'd never read it myself. As a child, judging a book by its cover, I wasn't drawn to the scary cat face that illustrated the jacket at the time. When I was asking people for their favorite fiction books about cats, someone said this was their LEAST favorite book, ever.
Knowing personally how difficult it is to write a book, I felt compelled to give the story a chance. I read it just before Halloween, hoping for a good tale for the season. Because it discusses witchcraft, The Witches of Worm has been banned off and on since its release. The story parallels how some Salem girls made false accusations during the Witch Trials. I understand that the author wants her readers to be upset when the main character, Jessica, projects her own guilt and her own voice onto the cat. The author is only describing the torturous twist and turns in Jessica's mind. But when the relationship between Jessica and the cat changes (I'm avoiding giving away too much of the story), the resolution seemed rushed and not entirely believable.
The Witches of Worm is a good book, and it deserves the Newberry Medal. But if you are uncomfortable reading about the mistreatment of a cat, I would avoid this book. It was written to describe the emotional problems of a pre-teen and isn't really about her relationship with the cat. Which is too bad, because animals are great healers.
Slinky Malinki, Open the Door by Lynley Dodd
My kids chose this book at the library because the cover showed a black cat hanging on a door handle. Our black cat Tickles knew the same trick. We signed the book out over and over. The book is in rhyme, and at odd moments everyone in our family would chant "Slinki Malinki jumped high off the floor, he swung on a handle and opened the door!" We eventually bought a used copy, but it was hard to find!
Fortunately, it has since reprinted. Lynley Dodd has a series of Slinky Malinki (and other cat) books, but this one remains our favorite.
Catwings by Ursula K. Le Guin
The lovely line drawings in the Catwings series (four titles) were drawn by S. D. Schindler. I know Ursula Le Guin is a well-regarded fantasy and science fiction author, but, to be honest, the drawings were what initially convinced me to buy these books!
The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
As you can see, our copy of The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents is worn and dog-eared (spoiler alert: there aren't any "good dogs" in this book). This is one of the greater books of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series: it should be taught in high school and college religion classes.
Here Terry Pratchett answers the age-old question: what happens when mice eat the almost-toxic magic garbage tossed out behind the wizard university? Sadly, there is only one plausible explanation for why Maurice the Cat is undergoing the same transformations.
"All right?" said Maurice…."I'm a cat. Cats don't go round feeling sorry. Or guilty. We never regret anything! Do you know what it feels like, saying, ‘Hello, food, can you talk?' That's not how a cat is supposed to behave!"
My sons first read this book in third grade. They've read it multiple times since. I first read it in my mid-fifties. I'm a published author, and if I ever write anything a third as good as this story, I'll die a happy woman.
Yellow Cat Tales: The Beginning by Kay Gibson
Sweet pen and wash illustrations throughout the book are by Sarah Henry.
The beginning of Yellow Cat's story is somewhat unsettling: he is tossed from a car and left to fend for himself on a deserted road in the woods. As this book is written from Yellow Cat's point of view, his confusion and fear at suddenly being abandoned is perfectly described! Luckily, he quickly finds a human couple who adopts him when he shows up at their door. No wonder! They are obviously cat people who are already owned by four other cats with their own strong personalities. Friendly--who is not--was my favorite of the cats.
If you are reading this story to children, you may need to explain the meaning of some words (such as "embodiment," "sophisticated," "flailing") that children might not be able to figure out in context…nothing wrong with that as it is a great way to expand your child's vocabulary!
Also, another heads-up for younger readers: the chapter "Yellow Cat's Road Trip" deals with a funeral. The funeral itself is handled delicately. But if reading to children, you might want to skip the paragraph in which the human couple discusses the murder of their friend.
Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale by Gwen Cooper
Or, How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat. This memoir by Gwen Cooper tells of her adoption of a blind kitten when she was juggling a lot of other issues in her life. The kitten, Homer, becomes her inspiration. My favorite part of the story is when she is separated from her cats during the September 11th attacks and needs to navigate the destruction in New York City to get back to them. Gwen Cooper donates 10% from the purchase of each new copy of Homer's Odyssey to organizations that help animals in need.
Please note that all copyright and reproduction rights remain with the artist.