Review: Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy Cats

Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats

 

At Miss Hazeltine’s home for shy and fearful cats, strays and pets who have been labelled hopeless, worthless, or afraid of everything are taken in and gently, slowly rehabilitated. When disaster strikes Miss Hazeltine, will her timid, furry wards find the strength and courage to come to her rescue?

This picture book from Alicia Potter and Birgitta Sif is an absolute charmer from start to finish (even the end pages are wonderful). Certain to delight cat lovers, this gentle story will also appeal strongly to shy, fearful children (and their caregivers), who will likely see themselves represented in Miss Hazeltine’s shy and fearful cats. This lovely quote captures the story’s gentle, positive spirit.

Miss Hazeltine didn’t mind if some cats only watched. She let them be.

Like Crumb.

Miss Hazeltine told him that, sometimes, she got scared.

“I’m afraid of mushrooms and owls,” she confided. “And I’ve never like the dark.”

She praised Crumb’s love of pitch-black places.

I immediately recognized in this text elements of my own approach to working with children. It is so important that children feel accepted for who they are, and be encouraged to express themselves in their own way. Some children will immediately jump into a program or activity with abandon, while others might feel more comfortable observing before joining in. By allowing children to help guide the pace and extent of their participation, educators can help support them as they build confidence, develop independence and experience feelings of self-worth and accomplishment. Working effectively with shy or nervous children can require a bit of extra patience, love and empathy, as well as a strong belief in children and their abilities. Shy children might need a bit more time and reassurance, but with enough patience and love, all children can be supported to reach their potential.

In a society that typically encourages individuals to be outgoing, extroverted and assertive, and which often rewards boisterous behavior, it is helpful to be reminded that being shy isn’t a sign of weakness or inferiority.  Without giving away too much of the story, the cats eventually change the name of Miss Hazeltine’s establishment to the “Home for Shy and Pretty Brave If You Ask Us Cats”, in honour of the fact that while the cats are still shy, they are no longer quite as timid or fearful. As a naturally shy individual myself, I will be the first to tell you that being shy does not have to stand in the way of living life to the fullest. Being shy isn’t something to be ashamed of, and shy children everywhere can find  in this sweet and positive story encouragement and inspiration to believe in themselves and embrace themselves for the unique and wonderful individuals they are.

#IMWAYR – June 27, 2016

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. These weekly roundups are a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share recommended (or not so recommended….) titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

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The Martian

I really wanted to love this book. The film adaptation starring Matt Damon was fantastic and I love science fiction, so I came into the novel with high hopes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love technobabble as much as the next person. Just look at my obsession with Michael Crichton novels. Being hit over the head with facts and figures doesn’t phase me, which is a good thing, because wow does this book ever delight in its technobabble.

What makes a highly technical yet highly enjoyable Michael Crichton novel like Sphere or Jurassic Park (don’t be fooled by the film adaptation – the original novel is not for those with a fear of coding languages) work is that the facts and figures are usually delivered by characters who serve a function beyond just being the deliverers of facts and figures. The characters in The Martian are barely characters at all – they don’t really display any discernible personalities, experience no growth or development, and just aren’t particularly interesting.

Our hero, Mark Watney, doesn’t really feel like a real person – he’s just so gosh-darn positive, experiencing only the briefest and most transient moments of negativity or doubt. The man experiences complete isolation for weeks and faces near-constant death – I don’t care how positive you are or how well you scored on your NASA psychological testing, that’s going to put at least a  bit of a damper on your spirits. Watney is just too perfect for me – always chipper, always positive, always cheeky, and always brilliant – too damn brilliant. Every “oh shit, I’m going to die!” moment is almost immediately followed by a “never mind, it’s all good” moment. There’s never really any reason to worry about Watney’s fate because we very quickly realize that no matter what challenges he faces, his super brilliance and super cheerfulness will quickly find a solution and save the day. The character serves as a vehicle for the author to display his in-depth knowledge of all things science and technology, which is interesting for a while, but eventually loses its lustre.

In conclusion, this was one of those rare instances in which I actually preferred the film adaptation over the source material (gasp!).

Don’t Push the Button

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I am experiencing a bit of a love-hate relationship with this book at the moment. I love it because it’s simple, silly and interactive, and works brilliantly as a read-aloud at school visits. I hate it because I read it aloud eight times in the past week, and I’ve since developed an unnatural hatred for Larry the naughty monster. The story is a lot of fun, though, and it provides a perfect opportunity to really ham things up as a reader, if you’re anything like me.

The Bus Ride

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Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats

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Old MacDonald Had a Truck

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Check back in throughout the week for reviews of these picture books!

Hope everyone’s having a great Monday!