THE LITTLE KITTEN
Series: My Little Animal Friend
Written by Nicola Killen
Illustrated by illustrator
Paula Wiseman Books 7/21/2020
32 Pages Age 4—8
Genre: Children’s Picture Book, Fiction
Themes: Friendship, Halloween, Gratitude
Ollie and her cat, Pumpkin, head out to play in a leaf pile on a crisp autumn morning when . . . Whoooosh! A breeze blows the leaves away to reveal a little lost kitten. Will Ollie and Pumpkin be able to get the little kitten safely home? (from book jacket)
“It was a crisp autumn morning and Ollie was heading outside to play, closely followed by her cat, Pumpkin.”
Why I like The Little Kitten
Ollie, dressed up in a cat outfit, complete with whiskers and ears, goes outside to play in a pile of leaves with her cat, Pumpkin. But before she can jump into the pile, Ollie notices leaves moving. Suddenly, the wind whistles and leaves begin to blow about, mostly swirling around Ollie and Pumpkin. When the leaves stop moving about what remains, besides a yard full of leaves to rake, is a little kitten. Ollie, Pumpkin, and Little Kitten play until all three are tired. Pumpkin falls asleep and Little Kitten enjoys Ollie’s attention, but soon wants to play again.
Ollie follows Little Kitten, who runs deep into the woods. She notices a poster hanging on many of the trees. The cat image is the spitting image of Little Kitten and Ollie surmises the kitten is lost and someone wants him back. She asks Little Kitten if he knows the way home. He meows just as the wind whistles, “whipping hundreds of leaves into the air.” (Some of the leaves are now made out of orange foil.) Once the leaves stop, a “secret path” is revealed to Ollie. She follows Little Kitten down the path.
The Little Kitten is a sweet, simple story about friendship, responsibility, and gratitude. Or, it is a simple, heartfelt story for Halloween as an alternative to all the scary stories told this time of year. Ollie, Pumpkin, and Little Kittle become fast friends. They play well together and when tired they rest together. The Little Kitten never tries to run away from Ollie and Pumpkin. When Ollie realizes Little Kitten is lost and his pet human wants him back home, Ollie responsibly decides to do just that. In return, Little Kitten’s pet human shows her gratitude with a surprise for Ollie.
The Little Kitten is staged in Autumn, with a crisp Halloween atmosphere. Die-cuts on a few pages either show something on the next or the previous page as part of the current illustrated spread. It is a clever and creative use of space. For example, a four-pane window, with one pane cut out, shows leaves falling and blown about. Turn the page and you’ll now see those same leaves, some now in orange foil, swirling around both Ollie and Pumpkin. Turning the page now places the die-cut on the left side of the spread and shows a tree. If you turn back a page, you will see that same tree is actually framed picture of a tree, hanging on the wall. Much care was taken when making these illustrations. The art (such as tree limbs), line up perfectly on the two pages.
This is truly a story for those who like animals; cats and kittens in particular. Ollie is cute in her cat costume. The art is created in grey pencil adding to the atmosphere. Color pops up as orange (again in pencil), with a few using shiny orange foil, mostly to accent leaves, and various parts of Little Kitten’s home. The shades of grey give the woods a hint of spookiness and also defines where and how fast the three new friends run. As Little Kitten runs, and Ollie tries to keep up, a pencil makes a dark path (to follow), and lighter grey strokes show motion as they run.
I think it is funny that Ollie took so long to notice all the posters hanging on so many trees in the woods. There are no words on the posters, just an image of a cat’s head, with dots placed above and below the picture for accent. Ollie understands right away what the poster is and asks Little Kitten, “I need to take you home, do you know where that is?”
Most of us speak to our pets but understand they will not speak back or even understand what we’ve said. Here is a kitten who not only understands, he also answers before running off, expecting Ollie to follow. She does. The author is either asking us to suspend our beliefs or something has happened to this kitten, but what could it have been. (Whatever it is, I’d like my cats to give it a try.)
The Little Kitten will entertain young children who do not like scary Halloween stories. There is some humor and Ollie expresses emotions young children will understand. The Little Kitten is also a good everyday story, highlighting friendship and responsibility. The illustrations demand you look at them closely, as you never know what besides leaves with fly by, or where the orange foil will appear, or even where a die-cut can be found (not on every spread). Taking your time also helps young children take in the story and relate it to the art.
I love cats of all ages. Immediately I saw The Little Kitten as an animal book (I skim through the pages before reading the story), but once I started reading, it was clear this was a holiday story, but can be read at any time of the year, thanks to its many themes and characters.
Author-illustrator Nicola Killen’s last picture book, The Little Reindeer (Book 1 in a three-book series entitled, My Little Animal Friend. (The Little Kitten being Book 3 andThe Little Rabbit number 2.)
The Little Reindeer received a starred review from Kirkus and The Horn Book named it a “High Book Holiday High Note.” I hope the same is said of The Little Kitten, as it deserves the accolades.
Favorite Sentence /Scene
I found the spreads where the three, Ollie, Pumpkin, and Little Kitten play various games until exhausted were some of my favorites. I love how Ollie gets down on her hands and knees to be at the same level of eyesight as the cat and kitten.
I also like the penultimate spread which has Ollie and Pumpkin sharing a chair, clearly exhausted; too exhausted to look out at the full moon.
Illustrations Rendered in pencil—grey and orange—and shiny orange foil.
To Learn More About the Nicola Killen: nicolakillen.com
Available at Amazon: The Little Kitten
THE LITTLE KITTEN. Copyright © 2020 by Nicola Killen. Published by Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster BYR, New York, NY.
Copyright © 2020 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
[890—word count, review only]
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