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.
The dynamic duo's second book, The Big Fat Cow That Goes Kapow is just out in hardcover!