4 Stars We're All Different But We're All Kitty Cats Peter Goodman Nicholas Milano No. Pages: 4 Ages: 4+ ...................
Inside Jacket: “My name is Carlos and I have no fur.” A kitty with no fur? How strange, thought the other cat, laughing and giggling at Carlos. Hurt and embarrassed in front of the class, he sits down at this (sic) desk and begins to cry. On his way home from school, Carlos the hairless cat runs into Vinny, a mean kitty twice his size. From a distance, Flo and Marla witness what’s about to happen.
It’s the first day of school at Meowville Elementary. Carlos is nervous but mom reassures him he will make new friends. Miss Bobsie asks her class to introduce themselves. Each tells the others two things about themselves. Dylan jumps up to be first. He has a bushy tail and he likes to play tennis. Sammy has a mouse friend named Mort and he likes to tell jokes. Vinny has six brothers and two sisters and likes to play football. Carlos likes to read books and doesn’t have fur. . . .The class laughs.
On the way home, Vinny, a big bruiser of a cat, is talking to Carlos.
“Yes I am a kitty cat.”
“You don’t look like a kitty cat so you’re not one.”
Marla and Flo see this happening and tell Vinny to pick on someone his own size. Vinny walks away.
What will strike you, when seeing this book for the first time, are the illustrations. They are large, character-filled, emotion laden illustrations of kitty cats that could have popped right out of Cartoon Network. Kids will immediately adore these cats and, because each is distinctly different from the others, will have no trouble choosing a favorite. I am fond of Sammy and his friend Mort the mouse. He is the kitty cat that will inject the most humor in these stories.
The main gist of the story is about being different, which is the running theme throughout the series. In First Day of School, bullies are also a theme. Vinny bullies Carlos. Vinny laughs at Carlos and tells him he is not a kitty cat. Even though Flo and Marla interrupt the “conversation,” as Vinny calls it, Carlos has heard enough to feel hurt. The next day, Carlos avoids all his classmates by sitting in the back of the room.
The author aims to start conversations between parents and children, and “tackle important topics that relate to developing social and emotional skills,” using “vivid illustrations and compelling narratives.” To that end, there are discussion questions at the end of each book.
I loved this book when I saw it. I adore the illustrations of the kitties. I think using a furless cat as the target for a bully was a good choice. I am not fond of the ending to this story. Carlos begins the day still scared of Vinny and tries to avoid him. There is no resolution of the bullying issue. Being the only kitty to know the entire alphabet may make Carlos special for the day. Impressing everyone in the class so that they all clap, may make Carlos feel special. Neither of these is a resolution toward the bully issue.
Right before Carlos recites the entire alphabet in front of the class, Vinny is asked what letter follows C and does not know. Vinny would not be happy that the kid he does not like showed him up, even though that was not Carlos’s intention. Vinny followed suit and clapped along with the rest of the class, but the bully in him would not be happy. This is just the type of situation that would further the bullying, not resolve it.
I think this first book did a great job introducing us to the characters we will fall in love with. We have an idea of their personalities, and we know two are best friends and two clash. Mom does a wonderful job instilling self-esteem in her son. She gives Carlos the courage to return to school. This tells the reader that parents will be an important part of the stories. I think this is a great introduction to the series. But as a book about bullying, I think it fails. Only three pages actually deal with the issue. There is bully Vinny talking to Carlos, telling him why he cannot be a cat. Then Flo and Marla shoo off Vinny and walk Carlos home. For Carlos, Vinny is still a cat to avoid.
The We’re All Different But We’re All Kitty Cats series tries to bring parents and children together. These books could guide families into discussions about important topics, before a problem arises. With helpful questions in the back of the book, parents and children have the option to explore multiple aspects of that book’s theme. Talking about these things before a problem occurs may very well keep relationships strong and close.
Will kids like this book? Yes and the younger ones will love it. The kitty cats are adorable and easy to love. They are starting school, just as many of its readers will be. When book two arrives, kids will still view Vinny as a bully and expect him to target Carlos. And maybe that is where the bully theme ends, with Carlos taking some kind of control over the situation.
With its thick pages made for little hands, the discussion questions in the back for parents, and characters that are hard to resist, I think this handsome book will sell well. I hope future books will bring an end to whatever problem it highlights, with the involved cat as part of the solution. If that happens, We’re Different but We’re All Kitty Cats might become a must have series for both children and their parents.
To read Peter Goodman’s interview click HERE!