R.I.P., Grumpy Cat

We are sad to hear of the passing of kitty superstar Tardar Sauce, better known as Grumpy Cat. Her perpetually "grumpy" expression (the result of her unique genetics) has brought smiles to so many and reportedly belied a sweet personality. We'll miss you, Grumpy Cat.

In her honor, here are some picture books and chapter books starring other (not-so-)grumpy cats and famous felines. All were recommended by The Horn Book Magazine and The Horn Book Guide at the time of their publication; reviews are reprinted from Horn Book Guide Online.

Picture Books


Barrett, Ron  Cats Got Talent
32 pp.     Simon/Wiseman     2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-4424-9451-0
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4424-9452-7

Three recently homeless cats who love to croon at night find their vocal talents earn them some of the amenities they miss from their old lives: well-aimed rotten table scraps, shoes, and anything within arms' reach of the slumbering neighbors' bedsides. Retro watercolor and ink cartoons are as silly as the story's moral: one person's trash is another cat's treasure. Look for sequel Cats Get Famous.

Bruel, Nick  Bad Kitty
40 pp.     Roaring Brook/Porter     2005
Trade ISBN 1-59643-069-9

A good kitty goes bad when offered an alphabetic assortment of vegetables (asparagus to zucchini). How bad? "She...Ate my homework / Bit Grandma..." and finally "Zeroed the zinnias." But when she's fed properly (anchovies through zebra ziti), "she...Apologized to Grandma / Bought me new toys...." Bruel's energetic illustrations, which delight in this kitty's A-to-Z mood swings, ratchet up the humor. This is the first entry in the long-running series.

Crimi, Carolyn  I Am the Boss of This Chair
32 pp.     Sterling     2018
Trade ISBN 978-1-4549-2322-0

Illustrated by Marisa Morea. After kitten Pom-Pom arrives, adult cat Oswald quickly learns that being "the boss" of chairs, toys, etc., is "much easier when you're the only cat in the house." Ultimately Oswald realizes that these things (and troublemaking) are more fun when shared. Oswald's barely-in-check outraged narration and the energetic mixed-media illustrations make for a funny and relatable new-"sibling" story.

Gall, Chris  Dog vs. Cat
40 pp.     Little     2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-316-23801-4

Dog and Cat try to get along, but they're just too different. They build a wall of stuff to separate themselves, but then they start to miss each other...just in time to join forces to escape another new roommate. Text and pictures are layered with humor, and the bold colored-pencil and digitally created art heightens the odd-couple drama.

Harrison, Hannah E.  Bernice Gets Carried Away
32 pp.     Dial     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-8037-3916-1

Big-eyed cat Bernice — grumpy at getting the short end of the stick for every party activity — grabs all the helium balloons in frustration and floats away. Her problems seem smaller when viewed from a raincloud, and Bernice dispenses balloons and cheer on her float back to earth. Illustrations veer toward twee, but the contrast between candy-colored balloons and drab cloud makes for a couple of striking scenes. Didactic but winningly earnest.

Manley, Curtis  The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read
32 pp.     Simon/Wiseman    2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-3569-7
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-3570-3

Illustrated by Kate Berube. It's difficult at first, but Nick persists until he manages to teach his cat Verne to read. However, his other cat, Stevenson, who looks grumpy in the expressive illustrations, continues to resist — until Stevenson's pirate drawings are discovered and turned into a story. There's humor for adults and children alike in this enjoyable book about reading and the imaginative play it can inspire.

McAnulty, Stacy  Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He's the Favorite
40 pp.     Amazon/Two Lions     2017
Trade ISBN 978-1503948389

Illustrated by Edward Hemingway. Cat Mr. Fuzzbuster is obviously owner Lily's favorite. His fellow pets disagree, so the smug kitty writes a note asking Lily to decide. Her response is not what Mr. Fuzzbuster expected (though listeners might have), inspiring him to shift his perspective. The well-paced text — which includes silly pet names and a final twist — is complemented by humorous mixed-media illustrations conveying Mr. Fuzzbuster's emotional roller coaster.

Nethery, Mary  The Famous Nini: A Mostly True Story of How a Plain White Cat Became a Star
32 pp.     Clarion     2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-618-97769-7

Illustrated by John Manders. Having helped composer Giuseppe Verdi overcome writer's block, Nini, an ordinary white cat living in a Venetian café, attracts attention from Italian royalty, a Russian czar, and the emperor of Ethiopia. The highly inventive and entertaining story, accompanied by vibrant gouache and colored-pencil illustrations, is based on historical events; an author's note tells more about the players.

Olson, Jennifer Gray  Me and Mr. Fluffernutter
32 pp.     Knopf     2017
Trade ISBN 978-0-385-75496-5
Library binding ISBN 978-0-385-75497-2
Ebook ISBN 978-0-385-75498-9

According to a small girl, she and her cat Mr. Fluffernutter are best friends. The illustrations tell a different story as the cat, a solid square of stubbornness, becomes increasingly fed up. The highly decorative setting and page design (large black font, an extravagance of uppercase and exclamation points) carry the emotion. A lesson about allowing friends their autonomy perches lightly on this amusing story.

Philip, Simon  I Don't Know What to Call My Cat
32 pp.     Houghton      2017
Trade ISBN 978-0-544-97143-1

Illustrated by Ella Bailey. A girl struggles to pick the perfect name for her new cat: Jane? Rambo? Mr. Maestro? Fed up, he runs away; his return improbably involves a trip to the zoo, a (gorilla) replacement, an art heist, and a feline sleuth. The girl's oblivious first-person narration plays it straight, allowing pastel-toned illustrations full of clever cat details to reveal the humorously outrageous story.

Pizzoli, Greg  Templeton Gets His Wish
40 pp.     Disney/Hyperion     2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-4847-1274-0

Yearning for peace and quiet, cat Templeton steals from his brother's piggy bank and mail-orders a wish-granting diamond. He gleefully wishes his pesky family away and sets out to enjoy the solitude. But loneliness eventually consumes Templeton, and he wishes for his family's return. A minimal palette and skillful changes in facial expressions convey his emotional highs and lows.

Rostoker-Gruber, Karen  Bandit's Surprise
32 pp.     Cavendish     2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-7614-5623-0

Illustrated by Vincent Nguyen. Outraged when his owner brings home a kitten, Bandit the cat runs away. He changes his mind — only to find himself locked out by mistake. After the kitten helps him get back inside, Bandit warms to her enough to provide a satisfying (if predictable) resolution. The illustrations' comic-strip look and Bandit's grumpy reaction are entertaining, though his nicknames for the kitten grow tiresome.

Singleton, Linda Joy  A Cat Is Better
32 pp.     Little Bee     2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-4998-0278-8

Illustrated by Jorge Martin. Cats make better pets than dogs — just ask this book's feline narrator. Despite the tabby's protests, a child adopts a pup at the same time. Bright, childlike paintings reveal that the smug-seeming narrator is not as secure in the new owner's affections (nor as well behaved) as claimed. Eventually the cat rethinks its stance, resulting in a heartwarming conclusion: "sometimes a dog can be...purrfect."

Vischer, Frans  Fuddles and Puddles
32 pp.     Simon/Aladdin     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-3839-1
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-3840-7

Pampered cat Fuddles's (Fuddles) life is turned upside down when the cat's family adopts a rambunctious, non-housebroken puppy named Puddles. At first, the cat can't stand his new housemate, but when Puddles rescues him from the dog next door, Fuddles decides they can be friends after all. While the plot is clichéd, Vischer's vibrant, expressive digital illustrations breathe cartoon energy and unexpected sweetness into the proceedings. Look for sequel A Very Fuddles Christmas.

Wardlaw, Lee  Won Ton and Chopstick: A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku
40 pp.     Holt     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-8050-9987-4

Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. Kitty Won Ton (Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku) is not happy about the new puppy. Yelchin's graphite and gouache illustrations depict with sensitivity and humor the sleek gray cat's initial fear and horror alongside the roly-poly brown puppy. Each haiku is complete in itself; together the poems create a whole tale of displacement and eventual mutual understanding.

Weeks, Sarah  Glamourpuss
32 pp.     Scholastic     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-60954-8

Illustrated by David Small. Classy cat Glamourpuss, who lives with the "gazillionaire" Highhorsens, is royally upstaged when a guest arrives with her show-off dog, Bluebelle. But when Glamourpuss discovers that Bluebelle hates doing her show-pony act, the cat helps her find her true (Glamourpuss-like) identity. Like its art (don't miss Bluebelle in her Carmen Miranda getup), the story is funny.

 

Primary


Jennings, Patrick  Hissy Fitz
104 pp.     Egmont     2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-60684-596-7
Ebook ISBN 978-1-60684-597-4

Illustrated by Michael Allen Austin. Hissy Fitz the cat really wants to nap, but too many things are keeping him from his sweet slumber: his home is too loud; the kids won't leave him alone; and he can't deny his instincts to eat, prowl, and play nighttime soccer with feline friends. Readers will enjoy accompanying the humorously grumpy cat on his adventures; Austin's black-and-white illustrations capture Hissy's 'tude.

Meister, Cari  Tiny Saves the Day
32 pp.     Penguin     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-448-48294-1
Paperback ISBN 978-0-448-48293-4

Illustrated by Rich Davis. Penguin Young Readers series. Oversize dog Tiny has many friends — but cat Kiki won't give him the time of day, despite Tiny's best efforts one snowy afternoon. When Kiki gets stuck in a tree, though, Tiny comes to the rescue. Narrated by Tiny's little-boy owner (Eliot, from previous Tiny books), the text, aimed at the newest readers, is simple yet satisfying. Davis's illustrations convey the many personalities.

Spires, Ashley  Fluffy Strikes Back: A P.U.R.S.T. Adventure
72 pp.    Kids Can     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-77138-127-7
Paperback ISBN 978-1-77138-133-8

After years of desk work, Sergeant Fluffy Vandermere, a grumpy-faced cat, finds himself back on the battlefield when alien combatants, a.k.a. insects, mount an attack. In this offshoot of Spires's Binky series, the somber-colored corporate setting and deadpan narration is juxtaposed with the characters' animal natures to great effect. Clean illustrations, block text, and litter-box jokes make this graphic novel accessible for readers new to the format.

Surovec, Yasmine  My Pet Human Takes Center Stage
103 pp.     Roaring Brook     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-62672-074-9

Resentful when his "pet human" fosters a shelter kitten, feline narrator Oliver (My Pet Human) tries to regain her attention, which culminates in the cats' participation in an animal talent show fundraiser and — predictably — Oliver's new affection for the adorable interloper. While a bit low-energy, this early chapter book/cartoon hybrid will appeal to new readers with gentle humor, spacious page design, and pet-owning wish-fulfillment.

 

Intermediate


Lombardo, Constance  Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat to the Stars
234 pp.     HarperCollins/Tegen     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-232065-0

This playful memoir of a cat who dreams big is a nod to the best and worst sides of the movie biz. Mr. Puffball chases his dream to become an actor, eventually becoming stunt cat for his idol, El Gato, whose flaws (and claws) come out. Cat puns and silly comics-style illustrations compensate for the obscure Old Hollywood references (explained in a glossary). Look for sequel Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America.

Pittman, Eddie  Friends and Foes
192 pp.     Abrams/Amulet     2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-4197-2314-8
Paperback ISBN 978-1-4197-2315-5

Red's Planet series. In this follow-up graphic novel (Red's Planet), former foster kid Red establishes her home on a paradisaical planet inhabited by an assortment of aliens. Obstacles arise: she faces off with grumpy cat leader Goose, participates in a zany election, and helps stop an invasion by alien pirates. Digitally rendered, full-color panels contain light humor and sweetness, perhaps reflecting Pittman's Disney background. An epilogue anticipates future installments.

Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, editor of The Horn Book Guide, is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons University. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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Laura Harrison

What a wonderful post! Thank you for remembering such a special cat. I don't know many creative ppl that don't enjoy a feline companion. Or two!

Posted : May 25, 2019 09:29


Lee Wardlaw

Purring the WON TON AND CHOPSTICK made this purrfect list!

Posted : May 25, 2019 02:54


Constance Lombardo

Mr. Puffball is honored to be alongside all these stars of kidlit!! Thank you!

Posted : May 19, 2019 03:13


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