3 out of 4 stars
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How do you teach your children not to wander alone far from home? For myself, some episodes of Criminal Minds has me changing my route home every few days, but children need a gentler approach, preferably with cat pictures.
Puffy and the Formidable Foe by Marie Lepkowski, Ann Hannon, and Margaret Hannon is a children's book that teaches readers of the perils of straying from home. Puffy is an adventurous cat that wandered into the forest. He met another animal and it was not a good experience for him. What follows is a nice story on how Puffy learned his lesson and acted differently after his experience. There are around two sentences per page with accompanying illustrations related to the text. The illustrations are colorful and drawn simply in crayons or color pencils. To this non-artist, I liked that the drawings were achievable.
In addition to the moral lesson in the book, there were other things that the book wanted to teach, such as, words that rhyme and the alliteration in the title. The rhyming words are underlined. There was a nice how-to in the beginning, giving a guide to the guardian on the possible uses of the book. A nice coloring page was added at the end of the book for a good activity after reading. A list of the big words used and a second coloring page can be provided if requested via email. Personally, I think they should have been included in the book without needing for the buyer to email the authors.
I feel that the story would be effective in teaching its lesson because many children can identify with the adventurous nature of the lead character Puffy. I also like that there are several ways to maximize the use of this book, as listed in the how-to guide in the beginning. The child can use 4 senses in this book - the sense of sight by reading along and looking at the illustrations, the sense of touch by coloring on the book, the sense of hearing by listening to the reading of the rhyming words and alliteration, even the sense of smell by talking about why Puffy needed a bath after meeting the "kitty". I wouldn't recommend tasting the book.
When you read the book, you will find out why the word "kitty" is in quotation marks. I wished that there was consistency in capitalizing the word "kitty". There were two other phrases that were in quotation marks but I couldn't figure out why. These were "yucky" and "mushroom hoods". Also, the word "till" should have been spelled as " 'til" on page 11. The illustration in the page that talks about the bath was jarring to the eye. It looks like a small piece of the previous page was just replicated to fill up the whole page. A fresh drawing should have been done. Another thing I didn't like about the book was that the line breaks (indicated here with slashes) sometimes do not correspond to how the text should be read. For example, "For his owner would bathe / him, with 'yucky' shampoo" should have been printed as "For his owner would bathe him, /with 'yucky' shampoo". This phrase, "No one ever told / Puffy, you better beware..." should have been printed as "No one ever told Puffy, / you better beware...".
For these reasons, I am rating this book 3 out of 4 stars. If this were not a children's book, I would have forgiven these errors. However, a misspelled word in a children's book teaches a child incorrectly, which may be difficult to undo. The improperly-placed line breaks ruin the rhythm of the text, which is distracting for a book that is meant to be read aloud. Outside of these, I think that this book would be a great bonding and learning tool between any parent and their child. Puffy, the lead character, has an unsavory experience but it is not traumatic enough to deserve a warning. I also liked reading in the author's bio that making this book was a bonding experience for their family as well, since Marie, her daughter Ann, and her granddaughter Margaret collaborated on it.
Puffy and the Formidable Foe
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