11.27.2009

The Cat on the Mat is Flat by Andy Griffiths, pictures by Terry Denton, 166 pp RL 1


Before I say anything about the paperback edition of The Cat on the Mat is Flat, I need to thank Andy Griffiths, Terry Denton and, most of all, the geniuses at Square Fish an imprint of Macmillan Publishers, for this unique book. I have been waiting for a book like this for years now, and here it is! What kind of book is it? It is an easy-to-read, first grade level book that LOOKS like an higher level chapter book as opposed to the raft of large format beginning reader books that kids reading at this level are relegated to. As a book seller I have noticed that new readers, especially those who have older siblings, want to read a book that looks like what the big kids are reading. Until now, there was almost nothing that fit this bill. The Andy Shane series by Jennifer Richard Jacobsen, illustrations by Abby Carter, is the only representative (I have come across thus far) of a first grade reading level book that looks like a Magic Tree House or Junie B Jones book in presentation.

Although I gave this book a first grade reading level, I am confident that The Cat on the Mat is Flat can be read by a kindergardener by the end of the school year. In the tradition of Dr Seuss, this book is one long rhyme and is broken into 9 chapters. In each chapter, the majority of the words end with the same sound, such as og, at, ed, uck, il, and so on. As Pat Leach describes The Cat on the Mat is Flat in her review for the School Library Journal, "Imagine the outcome if Dr Seuss, Dav Pilkey and Lane Smith were locked in a room until they came up with a book for beginning or reluctant readers." The rhyming stories definitely have the antic feel of a book by any one of these authors and the rhymes themselves sometimes mimic those from Suess's books, though never resorting to the use of nonsense words to make a rhyme or sheer absurdity as Seuss often does. The stories are all very funny, as anyone familiar with any of Andy Griffith's other books for young readers will expect, and they all have a small amount of cartoon violence. The cat of the title story becomes flat because the rat, tired of being harassed, finds a baseball bat and gets revenge. The final story in the book, "Andy G, Terry D, the Brave Tea Lady and the Evil Bee," finds the author and illustrator (the initials of their last names conveniently rhyming with "tea" and "bee") as characters in their own book. This book is great fun, but, more than that, it will give any new reader, especially those who are competitive, a great sense of accomplishment along with a good laugh.

Dont' miss the dynamic duo's second book, 
The Big Fat Cow That Goes Kapow!


The Big Fat Cow That Goes Kapow by Andy Griffiths: Book Cover




4 comments:

Julie said...

I want to thank you for this review. I read it when you first posted it, and immediately requested the book from my library. We got it last week and I am thrilled at how much my kindergartner loves it. He read the first chapter a few times last week and started the second chapter tonight. I honestly think I'm going to buy it because it's such a great book for him. So thank you for bringing this book to my attention!

Tanya said...

Julie - Thanks so much for sharing your successful first hand experience with this book! I can't always give books a test run on actual young readers and I have to go with my instincts sometimes. I am so glad to hear that your son is reading and re-reading this book! Hopefully the second book will come out in paperback before his reading skills develop beyond it! Thanks again!

zhanqing said...

I feel I have to leave my comments here when I read:"I have noticed that new readers, especially those who have older siblings, want to read a book that looks like what the big kids are reading". It is so true. My daughter recently started reading. The first few times when she read the books she brought back home from school, she would tell me:"this is a chapter book" and point to the page numbers. She is almost 4 and she is in a Montessori school in a mixed class with Kindergartners, so she saw older kids reading chapter books. I had to tell her this was not chapter books and I felt sorry to disappoint her. Now, this would be a perfect book for her. Thank you so much.
Also, I would like to tell you that I borrowed a few of the elephant and piggies books for her and the birthday box. Both she and I love those books. I have to say that these are the books that I like the most from all the books I have read to her and I am pretty sure they are her favorites too.
I would like also to tell you that I have borrowed and bought quite a lot of books following other people's recommendations. I am from China, so I don't know much about children books here, and rely heavily on reviews and recommendations. However most of the time, I was disappointed. When I read reviews about how good the writing was or how good the illustration was, I kept wondering how come I don't feel the same and I have this self-doubt that maybe I am just not as literate as those people who recommended the books. I also thought I may never like children books, and I can't imagine I would pick up a children book to read for myself as some people mentioned.
Now, it is such a relief to find somebody I share the opinion with (I don't like Mo Williems's pigeon book either :)). It doesn't change my opinion about myself (the literate part), but I am still very happy. I will not need to look further to find books to get for my daughter now on, that is nice too...
I couldn't believe myself that I even took "the birthday box" and "There is a bird on your head" from my daughter's room after reading to her that night, and read them to my husband after my daughter went to sleep, we both smiled and giggled at the pictures. Thank you again for introducing me to those books because I had such pleasure reading them.

Tanya said...

Thank you so, so much for you comment, thoughts and experiences! You made me smile!! I love thinking about you reading a children's book to your husband after the kids are asleep - I have often done the same thing! I am also glad to hear that you are finding picture books to read with your children that you like! Enjoying the book as much as, or almost as much as your kids do is such an important part of reading together and sharing a love of literature. Since I have been reading picture books to my own kids and at story time at the bookstore where I work for over 15 years now, I HAVE to like what I am reading or it is just plain boring to me and probably to the kids, too. As a bookseller, I find that 70% of the picture books published aren't worth buying and even fewer are worth reading out loud! I don't think your grasp of the English language has anything to do with you not enjoying the kid's books you've been reading, I suspect it is the quality and style of books that have let you down. One thing I like to do is have a couple of author/illustrators I really like and stick with them. Sounds like you have a couple you enjoy and are on the way to finding more! Thanks so much for reading my blog and sharing your experiences! Happy Reading!