The Snowy Day

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The Snowy Day

Ezra Jack Keats
The Viking Press, 1962

From the dust jacket, “Waking up to a world of snowy white—what could be better? Young Peter can’t wait to jump into his snowsuit and run out to explore. There are snowmen to build and snowballs to pack, mountains to climb and snowbanks to collapse—to carve a snow angel! And when the day is done, there’s a dark night of dreams and drifting snow, and a new snowy day to wake up to.

“No book has captured the magic and sense of possibility of the first snowfall better than The Snowy Day, winner of the Caldecott Medal. Universal in its appeal, the story has become a favorite of million, as it reveals a child’s wonder at a new world, and the hope of capturing and keeping that wonder forever.”

First published in 1962, this book has never been out of print owing to its popularity and inspiration of children-who-grow-up to be artists, writers, and advocates. The controversy surrounding the book was due to Peter, the first black child to be a protagonist in a children’s book. In the 1960s the children’s publishing world was steeped in the thought of the day, that black people in general, and black children in particular, were inferior to white people.

Another controversy was that the author of this ground-breaking book was a white Jewish man. Some critics said Keats had no business to write a book featuring a black child. But Keats grew up in early-to-midcentury New York City where antisemitism was rampant and he knew what it felt to be singled out and bullied. Keats had been illustrating children’s picture books for years and it always troubled him that the black community was not represented in a positive manner in media. With that in mind, he wrote and illustrated The Snowy Day.

The book is lovely in both its story and illustrations. The sublime pictures provide just enough detail of Peter and his world to make you want to follow him into the snow and make snow angels with him. As he wanders through his cold world, he seems content and happy to just be who he is.

Rating 4 out of 5 paws because Peter’s sense of wonder, excitement and joy in such a simple thing as snow is infectious and makes me want to recapture my kittenhood.



The Amazing Bone

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The Amazing Bone

William Steig
Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1976

From the dust jacket, “It’s a bright and beautiful spring day, and Pearl, a pig, is dawdling on her way home from school. Most unexpectedly, she strikes up an acquaintance with a small bone. “You talk?” says Pearl. “In any language,” says the bone. “And I can imitate any sound there is.” (Its former owner was a witch.) Pearl and the bone immediately take a liking to each other, and before you know it she is on her way home with the bone in her purse, left open so they can continue their conversation. Won’t her parents be surprised when she introduces her talking bone!

“But before the happy moment comes, the resourceful bone must deal with a band of highway robbers in Halloween masks and, worse, a fox who decides that Pearl will be his main course at dinner that night. And deal it does, with gambits droll and thrilling.”

The publisher’s blurb tells the reader everything she needs to know about this cute story book. I’m calling it a story book because there are lots and lots of words, printed rather small. The watercolor illustrations are cute – with notable exceptions being the robbery scenes and the scenes of the fox forcing Pearl home with him. Those scenes might be scary for the more sensitive kitten in your family; however, if your kits play video games then masked robbers brandishing knives and guns at Pearl’s head might not bother them. The part that bothered me the most was the fox forcing the girl-pig home with him. It wasn’t scary – just creepy. Also, tobacco use is depicted in the book in two places.

Rating 2 out of 5 paws because while Pearl is a very cute piglet, the robbers with their weapons and the fox with his dastardly plans rubbed me the wrong way. Remember, just because the Library doesn’t like every book we read (like this one) we are OPPOSED to book banning and/or censorship of any kind.

Challenged Book:

  • In 2008, a parent at an elementary school in Lehigh Acres, Florida, challenged this book due to violence in a robbery scene. A parent objected to a scene in the book in which robbers try to steal from the main character (a pig) and brandish pistols and a dagger. The parent wanted the book removed from the library. NCAC* and ABFFE** worked with the school principal and provided informational resources on the First Amendment in schools to the school’s book review committee. In an interview with a local TV station, we emphasized the importance of protecting all parents’ First Amendment rights to decide what their children may read. The review committee voted on February 8, 2008 to keep The Amazing Bone in the school, and school officials worked with the parent to accommodate the family individually.

Tampa, FL

from The Kids’ Right to Read Project

  • Challenged at the Discovery Elementary School library in Issaquah, Wash. (1993) because of the graphic and detailed violence.
  • 1986: A parent in Lambertville, New Jersey, objected to William Steig’s The Amazing Bone on the basis that one of the animal characters uses tobacco.

Reviewer: loc jackJack, Banned Books Librarian

*National Coalition Against Censorship (; **American Bookseller’s Foundation for Free Expression


Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

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Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

William Steig
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1969

From the dust jacket, “On a rainy day, Sylvester finds a magic pebble that can make wishes come true. But when a lion frightens him on his way home, Sylvester makes a wish that brings unexpected results.

“How Sylvester is eventually reunited with his loving family and restored to his true self makes a story that is beautifully tender and filled with true magic. Illustrated with William Steig’s glowing pictures, this is a modern classic beloved by children everywhere.”

This book is very sweet and tender. It’s easy to fall in love with Sylvester, an innocent young donkey who accidentally wishes himself away from his home and family for a whole year. What agony the parents went through when he went missing and couldn’t be found! And what a sweet reunion the family had when Sylvester came back to them.

A lovely story to be read to younger kittens – the font is small which would make it difficult for early readers. But the illustrations are pretty and are easy to follow along while listening to the story. It’s hard to believe such a charming story would create controversy, but it did.

Back in what my aunt calls the ‘hippie’ days, that is the late 60’s, police were given the derogatory name of “pigs.” If you’ll notice in the illustrations I’ve included, when Sylvester’s parents go to the police department for help finding their boy, the police are actual pigs.

From Wikipedia, “In 1977, the Illinois Police Association urged librarians to remove the book, which portrays its characters as animals, and presents the police as pigs. The American Library Association reported similar complaints in 11 other states.”

I was unable to find any more instances where the book was challenged, but one never knows, after all the pebble was “magic” and there are a lot of readers who are offended by the use of magic in any book. I did run across a blogger’s comment that said the book was depressing, despite the happy ending. Oh, and, Papa Donkey smokes a pipe for those anti-tobacconists out there!

Rating: 4 out of 5 paws for sweet illustrations and story. We enjoyed this book!

Reviewer: loc jackJack, Banned Books Librarian


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Graeme Base
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 1987, 2012

From the dust jacket, “Celebrate 25 years of this classic alphabet book with this special silver-anniversary edition! More than three million copies of Animalia have been sold worldwide, making Graeme Base’s amazing alliterative alphabet book one of the most beloved titles of the past quarter century! Animalia’s incredible imaginary world intrigues all readers, whether or not they know their ABCs.

“Each page includes hidden objects and ideas: start with “A is for An Armoured Armadillo Avoided an Angry Alligator” and you’ll find aprons, ants, aces, Atom-brand anchovies, and much more. The rest of the alphabet is just as fun!”

This is really a fun and challenging book. You can look for a long time on each page and still see new stuff. There’s also a bit of “Where’s Waldo” with the young boy at the beginning of the book hidden on every letter illustration. Graeme Base is an amazing artist – the amount of detail is, well, amazing! I can’t wait to check out his other books!

Strangely, the book was challenged at a school library in Texas for violence and horror, and at Storm Lake Public Library (IA) in 1992 when “two citizens discovered ‘satanic symbols’ and offensive images inside the book’s artwork.”

As we were unable to find evidence of violence and horror, I’ve included 2 images that might be borderline for some readers: “Horrible hairy hogs hurrying homeward on heavily harnessed horses” and “Kid Kookaburra and Kelly Kangaroo kidnapping Kitty Koala.” As for the other complaint of satanic symbols and offensive images, we found a zodiac calendar on the letter ‘Z’ page; a yin and yang symbol on the ‘Y’ page; a witch on the ‘W’ page; a vampire, a voodoo doll and a bottle of vermouth on the ‘V’ page – shall we go on? Maybe it was the Soviet flag or the swastika that was on the ‘S’ page that offended. As with any thing, if you’re looking for stuff to be offended by, you will most definitely find it. We find it better to let each reader decide for themselves and no one else!

Rating: 5 out of 5 paws for a totally imaginative book with out-of-this-world illustrations. Not to be missed and never duplicated!!



simon-loc   loc jack

Simon & Jack

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The Five Chinese Brothers

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The Five Chinese Brothers

Claire Huchet Bishop and Kurt Wiese
Coward-McCann, Inc., 1938, 1965

Summary: “Five brothers who look just alike outwit the executioner by using their extraordinary individual qualities.”

In the same vein as the pre-Disney-sanitized versions of Grimm’s fairy tales were full of death and triumph, this old Chinese tall tale weaves a fantastic story with a foolish boy losing his life and four brothers who prevent the fifth brother from being executed for murder. There’s a moral lesson to this tale – one that teaches kittens to listen to adults to stay safe (and alive!) and one that teaches adults to not go to extreme measures to prove a point.

Of course this book has been challenged – any time there’s a book with one view there’s a ton more with opposite views. Some readers have taken exception to the illustrations of the book:

The Five Chinese Brothers was banned when parents expressed concern at the Salem Public Library that the book’s “racial stereotypes were demeaning to Chinese People (1990).” The book was also challenged in a California grade school because “it contains descriptions of violent plots to execute five brothers (1998).”” And another blogger had this to say, “Chinese faces carry a yellow-orange hue; the eyes are often reduced to stereotypical slits.  There has been some discussion of the book as an endorsement of capital punishment and a celebration of violence in general.”

Nevermind this classic of children’s literature was published in 1938 and may have been reflecting the general views of the day. Even if those views are not acceptable by today’s standards (i.e., obsessive adherence to political correctness), perhaps the book should be read as a cultural example of ‘days gone by’ and past thoughts and interpretations taken into consideration to be learned from not banned.

Rating 3 out of 5 paws because although it is a classic, we don’t care for stories about cheating and executions.

As we’ve stated before, The Library doesn’t like all banned books and wouldn’t read them – except for the fact that they’ve been banned or challenged. We read to protest censorship and to give a voice to those beleaguered books & authors.

Reviewer: loc jackJack