Negative Cat

by Sophie Blackall (Author) Sophie Blackall (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade
Two-time Caldecott winner Sophie Blackall spins a winning tale about Max, a feline whose behavior doesn't win any raves, except from the boy who believes in him and finds a way to turn a negative into a positive. When a boy is FINALLY allowed to get a cat, he has no doubts about which one to bring home from the shelter. But Max the cat isn't quite what the family expected. He shuns the toy mouse, couldn't care less about the hand-knitted sweater, and spends most of his time facing the wall. One by one, the family gives up on Max, but the boy loves his negative cat so much, he'll do anything to keep him. Even the thing he dreads most: practicing his reading. Which, as it turns out, makes everything positive!

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Publishers Weekly

"Ugh! I'm not so great at reading!" confesses the cat enthusiast who narrates this story by Caldecott Medalist Blackall (If You Come to Earth). Having persuaded their family to adopt a feline "on Day 427 of asking for a cat," the brown-skinned child promises to care for the animal and read for 20 minutes each day as part of the deal. But "words only make sense when I read them out loud slowly," and Maximilian August Xavier, the orange-striped cat from the shelter, proves utterly devoid of charm--a negative cat. While classmates' felines perform all manner of tricks, Max "stares at the wall" and "leaves hairballs on the rug, his tail in the butter, and poop in the vestibule." The family complains, and a consultation with a shelter worker is arranged. In a sweetly suspenseful sequence, the narrator discovers that reading--"slowly. Out loud. The only way I know how"--is the key to Max's heart. In dusty blues and greens, oranges and pinks, digital artwork "superimposed on the reverse side of vintage wallpaper" dials in on the interracial family's dynamics and facial expressions. (Scorn demonstrated by the child's older sibling is particularly vivid: "We should've gotten a dog," they mutter, busy with nail polish.) Max is, of course, adorable, and the discovery that reading to animals can benefit both the children who read and the animals who listen is the story's hidden treasure. Ages 4-8. Agent: Marietta Zacker, Gallt & Zacker Literary. (Aug.)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Sometimes things aren't what they seem at first. . . . Understated text brings a dry sense of humor to the child's plight. . . . An author's note describes the true event on which this story is based and offers readers ideas on how they can go read to animals. A humorous tale in which everyone gets what they want—even a negative cat!"—Kirkus Reviews

"Max is, of course, adorable, and the discovery that reading to animals can benefit both the children who read and the animals who listen is the story's hidden treasure."—Publishers Weekly

"[Blackall's] illustrations, 'created digitally and superimposed on the reverse side of vintage wallpaper salvaged from a falling-down house, ' have a charmingly old-school feel, deepened by the dull-toned color palette and design choices. A touching story that adds depth to the usual sweet humor of cat books."—Booklist

Sophie Blackall
Sophie Blackall has illustrated more than thirty books, including the New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books Big Red Lollipop and The Baby Tree, which she also wrote. Born in Australia, Sophie lives in Brooklyn with her children, Olive and Edward.Sophie Blackall has illustrated more than thirty books, including Finding Winnie, for which she won the Caldecott medal, and the New York Times Best Illustrated books Big Red Lollipop and The Baby Tree, which she also wrote. Born in Australia, Sophie lives in Brooklyn with her children Olive and Edward.
Classification
Fiction
ISBN-13
9780399257193
Lexile Measure
N/A
Guided Reading Level
N/A
Publication date
August 20, 2021
Series
-

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