Review of Pepper & Boo: A Cat Surprise!

Pepper & Boo: A Cat Surprise!
by Charise Mericle Harper; illus. by the author
Primary    Little, Brown    64 pp.    g
9/20    978-1-368-04904-7    $9.99

The book opens with a tidy four-panel spread, the first showing a comfy-looking house made from simple shapes (“Twelve paws are in this house,” says the text); subsequent panels introduce readers to two dogs (“Four paws belong to Pepper.” “Four paws belong to Boo”) and a cat (“Four paws belong to the Cat. The Cat has something to say”). The cat begins the story’s narration, eager to show us around its place, and especially the nap spots. Sure, there’s a bed, but that belongs to the dogs; cats can nap anywhere. Except…when naptime hits, and with Boo’s cozy bed so close by, the cat curls up in it and promptly starts to snooze. The narration shifts to the pups, with flustered Boo exclaiming: “LOOK! The Cat is on my bed!” Boo and Pepper hatch a scheme to eject the feline interloper. It works (well enough), and the narration shifts back to the now-well-rested — and peckish — cat. After seeking a snack, the feline is ready for nap number two, leading the tale toward an entertaining “cat surprise.” Harper’s storytelling is light and cheery — none of the foreshadowed cartoony menace ever comes to pass — and the unfussy illustrations (a mix of panels, pages, and spots) give the animals tons of personality, from conspiratorial Pepper’s creative plotting (“I have a plan…just for you”) to Boo’s delight in it (“A plan for me! A plan for me!”) to consistently comical reaction shots and narrative payoffs. And while the cat may be self-involved and somewhat oblivious, it also proves to be a purrfect naptime companion.

From the September/October 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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