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Richie's Picks: CAT THE CAT WHO IS THAT? by  Mo Willems, 
HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, February 2010, 24p., ISBN:  978-0-06-172840-2  

"Everyday folks are waking up to the need for one  another
We're on our way 
making the world a better place."
-- The Staple Singers, "Touch a Hand, Make a  Friend"
Last night I was crafting a lecture for my library school  students about 
children's multicultural programming in libraries.   Working on trying to 
articulate the underlying reasons why such programs are so  necessary and 
important, I just could not get this book out of my  head.
"Blarggie!  Blarggie!"
Last week I'd gotten an email from Sharon Levin that  Mo Willems, the 
Pigeon guy, was coming to a nearby town for a midday  bookstore event.  While 
I've met Mo before at publisher  functions, I've never seen him in action with 
kids so this sounded like  fun.  I recalled that, just a few days earlier, 
I'd unpacked and  shelved a couple of early reader books he'd written.  I 
figured to  grab them on my way out so I'd have the opportunity to get on the 
book  signing line afterward and say hi.
It had been a busy morning, and I had just about  enough time to get down 
to Petaluma as I found the early reader books on the  shelf, hopped in the 
pickup, and sped down my long, bumpy driveway.  I  hadn't yet gotten a chance 
to look at the books so, at red lights, while  willing the lights to please 
change quickly so that  I might arrive on time, I began to read:
"Cat the Cat, who is that?
"It's Mouse the Mouse!
Hi, Mouse the Mouse!
Hello there!
"Cat the Cat, who is that? 
"It's Duck the Duck!
Hi, Duck the Duck!
A pleasure as always!*
(*Note that Duck the Duck is holding a Pigeon  doll.)
Okay.  Cool.  Predictable sequence combined  with a touch of clever, urbane 
"Cat the Cat likes her friends
Sure do!
Now I have turned onto Petaluma Boulevard North, and I am in  the home 
stretch with just two minutes to go when (Grumble, grumble.) I  have to stop for 
another red light, this one at the intersection with  Bailey Avenue, and so 
I reach over and turn the page, and there it is: a  large unidentified 
creature with four arms, three legs, blue tongue, and eyes up  on eyestems, who 
is focused on carefully stacking little building blocks.  
"Cat the Cat, who is THAT?
And this is what it is all about, folks.  Being a little  kid and 
encountering Somebody Who Looks Different than me or any of my  friends. 
Cat the Cat is the leader of this crew.  What is her  reaction?
"I have NO idea
Blarggie!  Blarggie!*
(*Exclaims the...whatever it is)
Oh my gosh.  And she* speaks a different  language.
(*He/she is wearing a red top with a pink heart so I am  making the 
admittedly sexist assumption that this is a  female.)
(*Cat the Cat is pondering)
"It's a NEW friend!
Blarggie!  Blarggie!*
Blarggie!  Blarggie!**
(* Exclaims the new friend)
(**Responds Cat the Cat)
And so while I expect some to see this book  merely as one of any number of 
interchangeable predictable sequence early  reader books, I am telling you 
that this book will change the world for the  better every single time a 
four or five or six year old reads it and  internalizes the concept that a 
strange-looking or strange-sounding kid is  nevertheless a kid; that meeting new 
kids is fun; and that one never knows  what a future best friend is going 
to look or sound like.  
Building a peaceful and happy world does not begin with  governments.  It 
begins with the way little kids perceive and react to  diversity.  Embracing 
that diversity is the importance of multicultural  programming and that is 
the importance of this fun, little  book. 
And if you have never seen Mo Willems in action in front of  kids, you are 
really missing something.

Richie  Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks _http://richiespicks.com_ (
Moderator  _ 
Moderator  _ 

FTC  NOTICE: Richie receives free books from lots of publishers who hope he 
 will Pick their books.  You can figure that any review was written  after 
reading and dog-earring a free copy received.  Richie retains these  review 
copies for his rereading pleasure and for use in his  booktalks at schools 
and  libraries.

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