Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Baby Blue Cat Who Said No

My Perfect Picture Book is below – I promise! 🙂 – I just have a little explanation for it first.

As some of you may know, I teach an online picture book writing class.

This week, we got into a discussion about subjectivity.

As a writer, how do you know if your story will appeal to agents, editors, and readers (both the adults who will read your picture book aloud and the children who will listen)?

There are some basic rules of thumb: your story should have a beginning, middle and end (i.e. actually BE a story), it should have an engaging character and/or plot, it should strike an emotional note of some kind, and it’s best not to write about inappropriate subjects, use foul language, glorify violence etc… – pretty much common sense 🙂

But beyond a certain point, there’s really no way to tell for sure who is going to like what.  If it appeals to you, if it touches a chord in your heart, if it highlights a truth in your life, chances are it will do that for other people too.  But there will always be at least one person out there who can find something to criticize.  And I don’t mean that in a bad way. I mean it in a comforting way.  You can’t please everyone, so write the best story you can and likely you’ll please someone.  Probably lots of someones 🙂

My Perfect Picture Book choice for today is a case in point – an older book, beloved by many (me and my children included!) – that received the following review:

Line drawings that look like doodles of cute kittens in gray, orange, white, and blue cannot save this lame tale of a contrary kitten… This is a story of manipulation at its worst. The language is flat, especially when read aloud. This reviewer says “NO!”” Marianne Pilla, formerly at Allard K. Lowenstein Library of Long Beach, N.Y. Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.


But I don’t find it manipulative.  I find it an endearing and true-to-life example of the way toddlers behave – naughty one moment, full of remorse the next, right back to their own agenda the minute after that, but not mean-spirited or malicious in their intent.

Subjectivity 🙂

I hope you like this book as much as the people in my house do! 🙂

Title: The Baby Blue Cat Who Said No
Written & Illustrated By: Ainslie Pryor
Re-issue March 1988, Viking Juvenile, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: behavior (contrariness), humor

Opening: “Have you heard the story of the Baby Blue Cat who said No?
Once there was a Mama Cat and her four baby cats.
Baby Orange Cat,
Baby White Cat,
Baby Striped Cat, and
Baby Blue Cat.
Mama Cat loved all of her baby cats very much.

Brief Synopsis: Baby Orange Cat, Baby White Cat and Baby Striped Cat all behave the way little kittens should, but Baby Blue Cat is feeling ornery.  No matter what his Mama asks, he says, “No!”  But when he pushes his Mama too far, he apologizes and behaves… until his contrariness gets the better of him again 🙂

Links To Resources: Teaching Children A VocabularyFor Emotions; make cards with different emotions pictured and/or written  – e.g. a smiley face and/or HAPPY – and play emotion charades by letting kids pick a card and act out the emotions for the rest of the class or family and see if the observers can guess; talk about behavior – have you ever refused to do something just to be difficult? Do you sometimes do bad things and then feel sorry? Talk about how to say you’re sorry – resource HERE.

Why I Like This Book:  The “flat language” 🙂 is fun to read aloud.  (Years later, we still use the phrase “and here’s your delicious cupcake, YUM YUM” 🙂 )  The “line drawings that look like doodles” 🙂 are cute and engaging (right down to the smile on the fish sandwich :))  But mostly, anyone who has ever spent 3 minutes around a toddler will recognize and appreciate Baby Blue Cat’s desire to have some control, and some opportunity to be independent of his mother and siblings.  As I mentioned above, he’s naughty, but when he goes too far he’s genuinely remorseful.  Mama Cat loves her baby cats very much, and it is clear that Baby Blue Cat loves his Mama Cat too 🙂

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF bloggers please be sure to leave your post-specific link in the list below so we can all come visit you and see your fabulous picks for this week!

Oh, and P.S. The lovely Alayne Christian invited me to be part of her platform building series, so I will have a post on her blog tomorrow if anyone cares to stop by.  She deserves lots of visitors, and there are other (undoubtedly much better :)) posts in the platform building series already published from Julie Hedlund, Miranda Paul, and Tara Lazar, as well as more coming from Katie Davis and I think maybe KidLit411 – so definitely worth checking out the series!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!!

33 thoughts on “Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Baby Blue Cat Who Said No

  1. Clarbojahn says:

    Wow! Susanna! Not only do I love the review I love everything about it, the resources, the themes, the preamble of you starting out with a negative review, etc. And I have to get this book!! Sounds fabulous. I hope my library has it. ( I will check right away. )

    Thanks for the mini lesson on picture books. And of course thanks for the review of what is most likely a best perfect picture book for Friday. 🙂

  2. Angela Brown says:

    My first novel is praised in some reviews as a great find and in others as something that should be hidden away. You're so right about subjectivity.

    Today's PPBF pick sounds like an adorable gem worth checking out. Thank you so much for sharing about it.

  3. Vivian Kirkfield says:

    Such a fun book, Susanna…and interesting that it was reissued…I wonder if 1988 is the new reissue date…or was it originally published in 1988? The simple lesson sounds like an older book…the twist at the end sounds like something more recent…I guess that's how to write a book that is timeless. 😉

  4. Patricia Tilton says:

    Baby Blue Cat is a leader. I love his show of independence as well as his love of his mama. Great book for toddlers.

  5. Joanna Marple says:

    This sounds timeless and priceless. I was, of course, never like Baby Blue Cat! I love the term baby cat instead of kitten, too.

  6. Rosi says:

    The cover is adorable, so I think I would like the illustrations. This sounds like a fun book. I will be checking it out. Thanks for the review.

  7. bgruener says:

    Haven't seen this one but it looks promising. I love how you started because it's so SO important for us to keep perspective and point of view in mind when reading reviews.

  8. Mike Allegra writer says:

    I thank you for the full disclosure.

    And I now want to read this book to see where my own subjective opinion lies.

  9. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    I know 😦 And as an author who has been on the receiving end of a few reviews like that, I REALLY know! But everyone is entitled to their opinion – they really are – and we all know when we write and put our stories out into the world that SOMEone is likely to respond negatively – it just goes with the territory. But this story is a perfect example of how one negative review doesn't stop LOTS of people from liking the story anyway 🙂

  10. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    I know. That's what I do too. I know too well how hard every writer works on his/her book to want to ever say anything negative. There are some people who think that's dishonest – that you should always say what you think. But I prefer to only review books I like 🙂

  11. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    That is always the way of it, isn't it, Angela? And as writers, we really have to focus on the good reviews and not torture ourselves with the bad ones… although it's hard. My favorite game when I get a bad review is to go find a book I LOVE on goodreads or amazon and read the one star reviews… because they're always there 🙂

  12. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    Ultimately we're all going to have our own reactions to books anyway, Barb, don't you think? 🙂 It doesn't matter if it's on the NYT bestseller list or if it gets negative reviews on goodreads or amazon – we're all going to like what we like, and not like what we don't like 🙂

  13. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    You know, I couldn't figure that out! My copy says 1988, but it's paperback, and it says something that isn't Viking – I can't remember now. And Amazon says 1988 was a reissue… Either way, I like it 🙂

  14. :Donna Marie says:

    Subjectivity happens 🙂 It's funny…before I read the negative review, I was thinking how much I liked the look of the illustrations! lol It sounds cute to me 🙂

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