A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the charming story and gentle tone make this a good bedtime book. The pictures convey warmth. Simple but beautiful prose promotes lessons about sibling rivalry, caring for pets, sharing possessions, and making friends.
What's the story?
A little girl provides Ginger, a mature cat, with delicious meals and a comfy basket. But one day an exuberant kitten interrupts Ginger's repose.
"He'll be a nice new friend for you, Ginger," says the little girl, but Ginger strongly disagrees. The kitten pesters poor Ginger nonstop, pouncing on him, eating from his dish, and invading his basket. Fed up, Ginger runs away.
The kitten amuses itself for awhile, scratching furniture and making messes, but somehow things are no fun without Ginger. Also noticing Ginger's absence, the little girl discovers him outdoors, sheltering from the rain under a bush, cold and miserable. Bringing Ginger indoors, she gives each pet a special meal, and provides the kitten with a little cardboard box so it won't try to get into Ginger's basket anymore. Later she finds both Ginger and the kitten wedged contentedly into the little box, friends at last!
Is it any good?
Charlotte Voake uses humorous contrasts such as big/tiny and sedate/frolicsome to create this sweet, subtle tale. Dignified Ginger's facial expressions are especially funny: His huge yellow eyes bug out in horror when the annoying newcomer comes frisking into his previously quiet life, and he gapes with chagrin as the little pest gobbles food from his dish (with "Ginger" clearly written on the side). Adult cat lovers will instantly recognize that Voake is a gifted observer of cats. She knows that they close their eyes and seem to smile faintly when they are truly contented. She has seen how a cat lays one paw over its face when it is curled up asleep, and she has observed how cats seem to turn inward and grow very still when they are suffering, as Ginger does when he's enduring the rain.
The book, printed on cream-colored paper, has a lovely design. Voake chose subtle grays, browns, greens, and yellows from her watercolor palette, outlining the figures in gestural black ink. The oversize type is arranged on the pages in a way that enhances the overall design. The ending is unexpected, adorable, and realistic. This is what cats do when they encounter a cardboard box: Tight squeeze or not, they climb in and curl up for a catnap.