Thursday, July 7, 2011

Book Review: The Cats of Mrs. Calamari

The Cats of Mrs. Calamari
The Cats of Mrs. Calamari
Author: John Stadler
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Star Bright Books
Publication Date: 03/01/2010
Pages: 32
Trim Size: 8" x 10"
ISBN: 9781595722577
List Price: $6.95
Category: FICTION - JUVENILE: Animals & Nature: Animals
Reviewer: Patricia Bessette

On Monday morning, Mrs. Calamari and her many, many cats move into a new apartment. On Tuesday, the landlord, Mr. Gangplank, informs her that no cats are allowed. Fortunately he has lost his glasses so when Mrs. Calamari says, "Cats? Of course not! They are visiting relatives," he believes her. But readers know better and will be delighted by the unusual ways Mrs. Calamari ensures that Mr. Gangplank sees no cats. On Saturday, Mr. Gangplank invites Mrs. Calamari and her "relatives" to the beach and when he finds his glasses, is so charmed by Mrs. Calimari (sic) that he happily considers her cats relatives. Finally, on Sunday, all the cats are invited to their wedding. This charming book was a Booklist Editor's Choice, Best of the Best selection by Chicago Public Library and selected for Read Aloud America. The Children's Museum of New Hampshire has a permanent life-size exhibit of Mrs. Calamari and her cats.  (Starbright Books)

In The Cats of Mrs. Calamari, it’s a good thing cats can’t read!  The sign in front of their new apartment building says, “No Cats Allowed.”  Even though the landlord, Mr. Gangplank, keeps predicting dire things will happen on Sunday if there are cats in the building, the cats do not seem worried.  In fact, the cats save the day!  Is this enough to get Mr. Gangplank to change his mind?  Does he enforce the “No Cats” rule and evict the cats?  Even if you’re not a cat person, you’ll cheer for the cats in this delightful romp by JohnStadler.
Suggested grade/age levels listed for The Cats of Mrs. Calamari are grades 2-3 and ages 4-8.  From a teacher’s perspective, preschoolers through second graders would enjoy The Cats of Mrs. Calamari as a read aloud.   The illustrations are adorable and engaging, better suited for small groups, but workable for a whole class read; possibly even a guided reading group.  High second graders and average third graders could read this independently.  There are several opportunities for discussion in The Cats of Mrs. Calamari.  One avenue I would explore with students is Mr. Gangplank and his dislike of cats and how it applies to friendships and biases. 
I highly recommend using this as a parent/child read aloud.  Although there are many words on the pages a cat-search/count on each page would be a fun activity to keep small children interested.  The format of the book lends itself to the use of a powerful reading strategy:  prediction.  Before turning the page, ask your child, “What do you think will happen next.”  I recommend this charming book!
My advanced digital edition of The Cats of Mrs. Calamari was received through NetGalley.

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