Book Review: More Valley Cats by Gretchen Preston
The following book review first appeared in the Marquette Monthly, December 2011 and is reprinted with permission.
Watch for my interview with U.P. children’s author Gretchen Preston coming soon!
More Valley Cats: Fun, Games and New Friends
Written by Gretchen Preston; Illustrated by Karin Neumann
Boonie and River are back in More Valley Cats! And this new book has all the fun and adventures readers came to expect from the first book of this series Valley Cats: The Adventures of Boonie and River (see December 2010 MM review); this second book also introduces several new friends, both human and feline, and plenty of adventures, fun and games.
Author Gretchen Preston does a marvelous job of balancing her stories and characters with real-life issues children will relate to and learn from. For example, the book begins with a new cat, Buddy, coming to the Valley. Boonie and River instantly befriend him, but then one day when River sees Boonie playing alone with Buddy, he feels jealous, has a temper tantrum and tells Boonie and Buddy to get out of his yard; fortunately, River soon learns how to have more than one friend. Other educational stories include a new human neighbor, Winslow, who is blind; the cats learn about blindness, reading Braille, and also watch Winslow save the day by rescuing a lost kitten in the woods because his enhanced hearing allows him to hear the kitten’s cries.
All the stories are set in the Valley, a special neighborhood of families and friends in Upper Michigan; as a special bonus, the book’s end pages have been turned into a map of the Valley. The cats’ adventures introduce U.P. history and new words to children, ranging from the history of the pasty to the Perseid meteor showers. Many new words like “nocturnal” and “caboodle” are included in a glossary at the end.
Of course, humans and their antics are always interesting and educational to cats. Boonie, River and their friends learn a lot from their human companions, including how to play pranks on three boys, how to stay safe while beekeeping, and the rules to the strange game of baseball.
More Valley Cats brings to life the U.P.’s seasons, and full page colored illustrations throughout make readers pause and marvel over nighttime meteor showers, rainbows that highlight autumn leaves, and scenes of boating and enjoying a very green summer.
A couple of my favorite stories tell of how Boonie and Congo kindly escort a mouse out of their house, and an adventure in a leaking boat. But my favorite story has to be “Road Closed” when the power goes out in the Valley and everyone gathers to spend the night together, stay warm, and play games.
More Valley Cats is broken into fourteen fun stories, short enough to read aloud at bedtime, or for children ages eight to eleven to read on their own. In the back of the book, Preston thanks her readers and promises, “If you all keep reading…we will keep writing and drawing!” Preston and Neumann are currently at work on the third Valley Cats book.
For more information, visit www.PrestonHillPress.com