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Happy Cat | Steve Henry

Happy Cat is an independently warmhearted tale tucked away in a Guided Reader book. The illustrations tell much more of the story, padding in between the lines of minimal text and narrative designed for emergent readers. Right at the start, the end page illustration invites us in and sets the tone for a comforting, quiet chain of events.

The story begins with Cat, cold and shivering, walking through the snow. Cat jumps into a basement window and a friendly, generous rat welcomes the stranger into its apartment without hesitation.

The text is, as we know, simple for a reason, but the scarcity of words also adds some suspense, not knowing exactly what Rat said to Cat, or what will happen next. Switching to a cross-section view of the building (my favorite and the perspective we will stay in for the remainder of the book), we watch Cat ascend the staircase and meet the other tenants in the building. Cat greets them one-by-one, and each makes an organic offering chosen from the things they enjoy most at home. The giving of one's own things to a new friend is so genuine in gesture. I love the contrast of this display of warmth against the cold, snowy setting outside.

After the last visit, Cat reaches the top of the stairs, arms abounding with gifts, and now we come to see fully what Rat had proposed in the beginning that Cat be so welcomed to live in the building with them and take the empty room at the top. It's worth highlighting Henry's choice in the proportions of animal size-to-apartment size, and the simplicity in their belongings and happiness. Such a fun detail that provides an extra layer of fascination (especially the happy elephant playing piano with no space to lay his trunk).

Snuggled in his new space, Cat settles in with Dog's book in hand to read, Rabbit's plant placed, Elephant's tea within reach and Bird's painting hung up prominently. Cat is home. And Cat is happy.

Other works by Steve Henry:


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