BY: Written by Pamela Paul and illustrated by Becky Cameron (Philomel Books, Tuesday), ages 4-7, 32 pages, $17.99 hardcover.
STORY: A calico cat believes a father and son sit down every day to pet and play with him, and it is his duty to facilitate; so when they insist on holding an awkward rectangle from the bookshelf, too, he patiently does his best to move onto or near that rectangle.
The cat becomes more and more confused as the boy grows up, learns to read by himself and starts shoving the cat away.
The story is told from the cat's point of view, which is that his people for some reason want to hold a sharp rectangle while they cuddle him. He thinks of this as their rectangle time, and it's a challenge, but he is up to that challenge. Every day he helps them pet him by insinuating his soft, fluffy body onto the rectangle, sometimes rubbing his chin on it to smooth its edges.
As his people gently move him out of their way so they can read, he imagines he's being so, so helpful.
Becky Cameron uses quiet colors to depict a peaceful household, and there's nothing loud or mean or frantic in the scenes where the people fend off the adorable cat. It's sweet humor that sails right over his pointy ears.
Fathers will appreciate seeing a man portrayed as reading with his son, which fathers do. And as the story tracks the boy's progress toward reading alone, the book sends a subtle but (one can hope) powerful message that reading is an activity older boys enjoy.
Cat lovers will be delighted, too, of course.
Read to Me is a weekly review of short books.