The Great Dictionary Caper

dictionary caper

The Great Dictionary Caper

Judy Sierra
Illustrations by Eric Comstock
Simon Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2018

From “When all of the words escape from the dictionary, it’s up to Noah Webster to restore alphabetical order in this supremely wacky picture book that celebrates language.

“Words have secret lives. On a quiet afternoon the words escape the dictionary (much to the consternation of Mr. Noah Webster) and flock to Hollywood for a huge annual event—Lexi-Con. Liberated from the pages, words get together with friends and relations in groups including an onomatopoeia marching band, the palindrome family reunion, and hide-and-seek antonyms. It’s all great fun until the words disagree and begin to fall apart. Can Noah Webster step in to restore order before the dictionary is disorganized forever?”

At first, I wasn’t going to bother reviewing the book, I didn’t like it, found it boring and didn’t want to waste a post on it. From the title, the book sounds like a mystery but inside it is literally a bunch of words illustrated as living creatures and each page introduces the reader to a different type of word. It felt like a lesson in grammar rather than an enjoyable mystery for young kittens – which is great if you’re a kindergarten teacher. EXCEPT, the author, editors and publishers all missed the misspelled word! Can you believe it? A book for kittens about a dictionary and grammar and it has a misspelled word. The Library can tolerate one or two misspelled words in a novel – everybody makes mistakes but to misspell the word ‘rhyming’ (spelled ‘ryhming’) is unforgivable. I mean really. The word even gets flagged by spellcheck!

Rating 2 out of 5 paws ONLY because of the illustrations. They are cute and the artist did a good job. The book really needs to be pulled from production, corrected and reissued with a sincere apology to all the libraries who spent a part of their tight budgets on a bad book.

Reviewer: simon-locSimon



The Story of Easter

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The Story of Easter

Aileen Fisher
Illustrated by Stefano Vitale
HarperCollinsPublishers, 1997

From the dust jacket, “Easter evokes many images for many people: spring, rebirth, decorated eggs, fancy Easter bonnets, and the Easter bunny. How did these disparate traditions come to be associated with what is the central and most holy of holidays for Christians?

“With an informative text and glorious illustrations, this book explains how and why people all over the world celebrate Easter. It begins with the biblical story of Jesus’ resurrection and then describes how people honor this day and the origins of these traditions. Instructions for decorating eggs and a recipe for hot cross buns round out this delightful story of the Easter season.”

As the publisher’s blurb states, this is a well written and easy to understand book about Easter. The writing is fairly small so it’s perfect for reading aloud to younger kittens but older, school age ones should be okay on their own. But don’t let them read it alone! It’s too interesting to not share with the whole family. The retelling of the Bible story is an accurate overview and then it’s cool to read how some of the traditions Americans celebrate with are from different cultures around the world. But, somehow, the author wasn’t able to come up with the origins of the Easter bunny! The illustrations are quite pretty and enhance the story.

Rating: 4 out of 5 paws because it’s a lovely book and can be read by non-Christians without offending them.



Seven Days of Kwanzaa

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Seven Days of Kwanzaa

Ella Grier
Pictures by John Ward
Viking, 1997

From the back of the book, “For the seven days of Kwanzaa, join in a celebration of rich African-American culture and traditions, from lighting candles, storytelling, and song, to making mkeka mats. Harambee! We are pulling together to make things better. Green is for the land. Red is for the blood. Black is for the people whom we love.

This is a lovely picture book outlining the seven principles of Kwanzaa for children and newcomers to the celebration alike. Each day has its own page and illustration, along with the date, the principle, the symbol and a poem or song. I really liked how each page gets a little longer length-wise and edged in a different African pattern. It’s very pretty. The illustrations are colorful and meaningful; my favorite was for the seventh day, or Imani (faith) where the picture shows a grandfather telling stories to the younger children.

Even if you and your kittens don’t celebrate Kwanzaa, this book is a good way to introduce young ones to other cultures in order to teach them respect and acceptance of cats from all over the country and the world.

Rating 4 out of 5 paws for the accessibility and ease with which the celebration Kwanzaa is shared.



Thanksgiving Is…

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Thanksgiving Is…

Gail Gibbons
Holiday House, 2004

From the dust jacket: “Thanksgiving is turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. It is parades with giant balloons.  It is a holiday for remembering the Pilgrims and the Indians they met. Most of all, it is a time to share with family and friends, and a time to give thanks for many blessings.”

The author of this picture book gives the reader a nice overview of why Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, both past and present. She also covers harvest festivals of the way, way back past – like ancient Egypt and Greece as well as the Middle Ages. The illustrations are nice watercolors of mostly the same face just in different clothing. There aren’t enough persons of color in the scenes, but like I said the paintings are nice.

Rating 3 out of 5 paws because the overall message of the book is to be thankful for our many blessings!

Reviewer:thanks-dana Simon


And Tango Makes Three

and tango makes three

And Tango Makes Three

Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Illustrated by Henry Cole
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2005

From the dust jacket, “In the zoo there are all kinds of animal families. But Tango’s family is not like any of the others.”

This is a true story of 2 male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who became a couple and built a nest for an egg that never came. One of the zookeepers placed an extra fertilized egg in the boy penguin’s empty nest and they each took turns to sit on it and eventually, a female chick, Tango, was hatched.

The penguins in the story are so sweet – they’re like any other animal couple – playing, sleeping and eating together; and, most of all, their inborn desire to have a chick. When I was reading it, my heart hurt a little when Roy and Silo built their little nest and tried to hatch a rock – which of course, didn’t hatch. Thank goodness for attentive zookeepers who care for their charges and want to provide the best for them.

Rating 4 out of 5 paws for cuteness of the penguins, of course, but more importantly, for the honesty and forthrightness with which the story is told. No apologies or excuses, here. Just the facts, ‘mam, just the facts. Two boys can make a family!!

If you want to read about the multiple times this book has been challenged and banned, please scroll past the adorable illustrations!




You can imagine why this book is banned and challenged… The ALA reports that And Tango Makes Three was the most frequently challenged book from 2006 to 2010, except for 2009 when it was the second most frequently challenged…and thank you to the ALA for the following information.

2014 –
• One of three books about gay couples withdrawn from libraries in Singapore (2014), where gay sex is illegal. In a statement, the National Library Board suggested that gayness and family values are incompatible. And that copies of the book would be pulped. It was announced later that authorities in Singapore reversed their decision and stopped the national library from destroying the children’s books, after its decision in July produced a public outcry over literary censorship. Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim ordered that the books be moved to the adult section, where parents can borrow them for their children.
• Frequently challenged in the U.S. for the following reasons: anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, as well as “promotes the homosexual agenda”

2011 –
• Pulled from the Gibbs Elementary School in Rochester, Minn. (2011) as inappropriate for elementary school students and removed from school library shelves. This decision was later reversed as a mistake for failing to follow district policy. Eventually, a “temporary resolution” was reached requiring that one of the parents who challenged the book be present when their child checks out books from the school media center in the future.

2009 –
• Challenged, but retained in the North Kansas City, Mo. schools despite a parent’s concern that the book wasn’t age-appropriate, didn’t follow the district’s policy on human sexuality education, and tries to indoctrinate children about homosexuality. In subsequent discussions, the schools appear to be headed towards segregating elementary school libraries according to “age appropriateness.” Students might be restricted to view or check out materials in their own age-class or younger.

2008 –
• Returned to the general circulation shelves in the 16 elementary school libraries in Loudoun County, Va. despite a complaint about its subject matter.
• Withdrawn from two Bristol, England, U.K., primary schools following objections from parents who claimed the book was unsuitable for children and that they had not been consulted on their opinions.
• Challenged, but retained at the Eli Pinney Elementary School in Dublin, Ohio despite a parent’s concerns that the book “is based on one of those subjects that is best left to be discovered by students at another time or in another place.”
• Challenged in the elementary school library in Ankeny, Iowa by parents who do not want their children to read the story of two male penguin parents in the Central Park Zoo due to concerns that it promotes homosexuality. On Dec. 15, 2008, the Ankeny school board members voted six to one to keep the book.
• Retained in the Chico, Calif. Unified School District, over complaints that the book is inappropriate for elementary school students. The district review committee determined that the book meets library selection standards and district policy.
• Retained by the Calvert County Library in Prince Frederick, MD after requests that the book be removed from the children’s section and shelved in a labeled alternative section.
• Retained in the Meadowview Elementary School in Farmington, Minn. despite a parent’s concern that “a topic such as sexual preference does not belong in a library where it can be obtained by young elementary students.”

2007 –
• Challenged at the Lodi, Calif. Public Library by a resident deriding what she called its “homosexual story line that has been sugarcoated with cute penguins.”

2006 –
• Moved from the children’s fiction section to children’s nonfiction at 2 Rolling Hill’s Consolidated Library’s branches in Savannah and St. Joseph, Mo after parents complained of its homosexual undertones.
• Challenged at the Shiloh, Ill Elementary School library. A committee of school employees and a parent suggested the book be moved to a separate shelf, requiring parent permission before checkout. The school’s superintendent, however, rejected the proposal and the book remained on the library shelf.
• Pulled from 4 elementary school libraries in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC area after a few parents and Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James questioned the controversial but true story. The books were returned after the local paper questioned the ban. It should be noted that there was no formal request for the book’s removal.


Jack, North Carolina Division Chief and Banned Books Librarian