Picture Book Snob
A first reader that kids will actually want to read
Cat Has a Plan by Laura Gehl and Fred Blunt, Simon & Schuster
What's it about?
Cat is sad because Dog has a dinosaur toy that Cat really wants. So, Cat comes up with a plan to swipe the dinosaur. Then Dog comes up with a scheme to steal it back. When the toy is lost during a tussle, Cat and Dog collaborate on a new plan which is the best one of all!
What can we learn?
This story demonstrates why it's better to cooperate than to compete, and shows what can be accomplished when we work together instead of against each other.
What makes this stand out? My own plan to get my eldest child excited about reading by herself wasn't going well. She still loves picture books and I will happily read to her for as long as she wants, but I thought reading on her own might help to relieve lockdown boredom. I had been struggling for months to find a first reader that appealed to her. Every other book I've bought at this level has been incredibly dull and she has refused to engage with any of them.
We had an entirely different experience with Cat Has a Plan and it's the first book of its nature that my almost-six-year-old has ever accepted with enthusiasm. The moment she saw it, she was interested, read it from cover to cover and laughed the whole way through. The text is hilarious but even before she knew what it said, she was intrigued by the entertaining images.
About those illustrations...
We are huge fans of Fred Blunt's lively and comical visual storytelling style. These illustrations are gorgeous - cute, colourful, delightfully dynamic, full of mischief and mayhem, and just so funny. There are so many fantastic details to which kids can relate like the stuffed animals at Cat's tea party and the clothes pegs holding the homemade theatre together. The facial expressions are brilliant throughout; I love Cat and Dog's reactions to each other's antics and the enterprising mouse's conspiratorial wink at the reader on the final page.
Why we love it...
Although this story uses basic language and hardly any words, it conjures a captivating saga with a pantomime quality. The characters are wonderful and brilliantly brought to life - even Mouse who is in the background for most of the action. This is one of the funniest books we own and it's astonishing how clever and amusing it is considering its brevity and simplicity.
Why you need it...
Cat Has a Plan is ideal for introducing children to the joys of reading independently. This book is perfect for anyone having difficulty finding material for beginner readers that they actually want to read. I'm delighted we discovered it - I had been searching for a "gateway" book like this for ages and I can't recommend Cat Has a Plan highly enough!
About the author:
Laura Gehl worked as a high school teacher, a researcher in a neurobiology lab, and a science writer before becoming a full-time author. Laura is the author of more than twenty popular and award-winning picture books, board books, and early readers. Laura's best-selling titles include One Big Pair of Underwear, Peep and Egg, My Pillow Keeps Moving, I Got a Chicken for My Birthday and Baby Astronaut. Take a look at Laura's fabulous ice-cream themed author website.
About the illustrator:
Fred Blunt is an award-winning author and illustrator of lots of wonderful children's books. We LOVE Lionel the Lonely Monster (read a review) and Gnome (review on the way). Inspired by the Muppets, Quentin Blake, and the Flintstones, Fred has been a compulsive doodler since he was in hand-me-downs. He studied illustration at the University of the West of England, and his various design projects include animated interstitials for the BBC. Follow Fred on Instagram to see daily doodles, images from works-in-progress and upcoming titles.
Cat Has a Plan was published by Simon & Schuster in July 2020 - see this book on the publisher's website