The best children’s books about the loving bond between people and cats

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always loved cats and have lived with many: Princess Sheba Darling, Precious Sammy Dearest, Couscous Kerouac, P.C. (Perfect Cat), Neshama, and Mitzi. Each cat has a distinct personality and quickly taught me how things were going to go: some cats are lap cats, some are not. Some cats are finicky, some cats will eat anything. Some cats slept on my pillow, some cats prowled—and yowled—all night long. In addition to cats, I have always loved picture books and have written many about cats including: Cats, Cats, Cats! Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale With A Tail, A-B-C Cats, 1-2-3 Cats, and The Best Cat In The World.


I wrote...

Book cover of Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed

What is my book about?

Moshe Cotel was a composer who lived in a noisy building on a noisy street in a noisy city. But Moshe didn’t mind. Everything he heard was music to his ears. One day, while out for a walk, he heard a small, sad sound that he’d never heard before. It was a tiny kitten! “Come on, little Ketzel,” Moshe said, “I will take you home and we will make beautiful music together.” And they did—in a most surprising way. Inspired by a true story, author Lesléa Newman and illustrator Amy June Bates craft an engaging tale of a creative man and the beloved cat who brings unexpected sweet notes his way. Winner of the Sydney Taylor Award and the Massachusetts Book Award.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Cat Man of Aleppo

Lesléa Newman Why did I love this book?

I was so moved by this true story of Alaa, an ambulance driver who loves his city of Aleppo so much that he chooses to stay there when war breaks out. In addition to helping the people of Aleppo, Alaa helps the hundreds of cats left homeless by the war. His kindness inspires others, who volunteer and donate enough money for Alaa to build a shelter he names “The House of Cats Ernesto” in memory of a friend’s beloved cat. People who visit the shelter are so filled with hope, they donate more money and soon Alaa builds a playground for the children of Aleppo. Kindness begets kindness, and this story lifted my heart and restored my faith in people, most of whom I truly believe are innately kind.

By Irene Latham, Karim Shamsi-Basha, Yuko Shimizu (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Cat Man of Aleppo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Caldecott Honor 2021
Winner of the Middle East Book Award 2020

'A beautifully told and illustrated story that offers a unique perspective on both war and humanity.'
Kirkus, starred review

Out of the ravages of war came hope. How an act of kindness inspired millions worldwide.

When war came to Syria, many fled the once-beautiful city of Aleppo and were forced to become refugees in far-flung places. But Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel decided to stay and work as an ambulance driver, helping the civilians that couldn't leave. He quickly realised that it wasn't just people who needed care,…


Book cover of Picasso and Minou

Lesléa Newman Why did I love this book?

No one wants to buy Pablo Picasso’s sad blue paintings. Unable to feed himself or his cat, Picasso sends Minou out into the world, hoping she can find herself a meal. Minou meets some circus performers who feed her, but she doesn’t finish her food; she brings a sausage home to Picasso. Minou introduces Picasso to her new friends, who inspire him to create more joyful paintings which are purchased by an art dealer. This book is all about kindness. The circus performers kindly feed Minou, Minou kindly brings food to Picasso, and Picasso kindly paints the circus performers’ portraits in exchange for meals. This book, based on a true story, shows that cats, who are rumored to be self-centered and aloof, are really very loving, generous, and kind.

By P.I. Maltbie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Picasso and Minou as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The artist Pablo Picasso's cat Minou influences him to discontinue his Blue Period style of painting to begin creating works that will sell more quickly, in a story that includes brief notes on Picasso's life and work.


Book cover of The Cats on Ben Yehuda Street

Lesléa Newman Why did I love this book?

I love that this book features a character who is grumpy and (at first) doesn’t like cats! Mr. Modiano thinks cats are a nuisance, but when a neighbor’s cat, Ketzie goes missing, guess who searches for her and brings her home? And guess who then adopts a cat of his own? And finally, shares a cup of tea with his neighbor who has been trying for a long time to befriend him? Many people are not fond of cats until one special feline sneaks into their heart. I love that this book shows a character’s concern for his neighbor inspires him to open his heart. And the illustrations are adorable!

By Ann Redisch Stampler, Francesca Carabelli (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Cats on Ben Yehuda Street as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

There are lots of cats on Ben Yehuda Street, but it is the friendship between a little grey cat with a pink collar and a fluffy white stray cat that brings two lonely neighbors together.


Book cover of The Cat Who Went to Heaven

Lesléa Newman Why did I love this book?

I have read this book at least a dozen times. First published in 1930, it has become a classic, winning the Newbery Medal (the Oscar of children’s books!) and other awards. The story, which takes place in Japan, is about a poor, humble artist, who is working on an important painting. Though he has very little money and cannot afford another mouth to feed, his housekeeper brings a little white cat home from the market. At first, the artist is disgruntled, but nevertheless, the cat becomes known as Good Fortune, and indeed, through an act of selflessness, the cat does bring good fortune to the artist. The writing style is gorgeous, and the book is an absolute pleasure to read. Very soothing and meditative. No wonder it’s become a classic!

By Elizabeth Coatsworth, Raoul Vitale (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Cat Who Went to Heaven as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

A Newberry Medal Winner

This timeless fable has been a classic since its first publication in 1930, and this beautifully reillustrated edition brings the magic and wonder of the tale to a new generation of readers.

In ancient Japan, a struggling artist is angered when his housekeeper brings home a tiny white cat he can barely afford to feed. But when the village’s head priest commissions a painting of the Buddha for a healthy sum, the artist softens toward the animal he believes has brought him luck.

According to legend, the proud and haughty cat was denied the Buddha’s blessing…


Book cover of Cat Talk

Lesléa Newman Why did I love this book?

This is pretty much a perfect (or should I say purr-fect?) picture book. It is a collection of 13 charming short poems, each one about a different cat, accompanied by wonderful watercolor paintings. The cats—ranging from “Sylvie the Boss” to “Romeo”—put on a good show of being independent from their humans, but the reader quickly learns otherwise. My favorite poem is about “Henry” who sleeps blissfully on his human’s wedding dress, “…the white silk gathered like a cloud/Around me.” Like the best poems, what is unsaid is just as important as what is said. Here, it is left up to the reader to imagine how the wedding dress’s owner feels upon discovering Henry’s new favorite sleeping place! Readers and cat-lovers of all ages will adore this book. 

By Patricia MacLachlan, Emily MacLachlan Charest, Barry Moser (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cat Talk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From cuddler to troublemaker, kitten to tom, cats have a lot to say. Authors Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest and illustrator Barry Moser give voice to and celebrate our most opinionated furry friends in this spirited collection of poems filled with rich language, perfect for reading aloud. Cat Talk is sure to make readers wonder what their own four-legged friends have to say.

Supports the Common Core State Standards


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Book cover of Totally Turtles!

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Why am I passionate about this?

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What is my book about?

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With simple language and vivid photographs, Totally Turtles! is perfect for emerging readers curious about turtles and how they have managed to adapt, survive, and thrive for so long. Learn about the fascinating world of turtles, from sea to land and everywhere in between.

Totally Turtles!

By Ginjer L. Clarke,

What is this book about?

Learn about turtles and their many talents in this nonfiction leveled reader perfect for kids interested in these shelled creatures and their lives on land and in the water!

Did you know that leatherback turtles can weigh up to two thousand pounds? Or that the Florida softshell turtle can breathe through its snout and its skin? Turtles have been around for millions of years and we're still learning more about them!

With simple language and vivid photographs, Totally Turtles! is perfect for emerging readers curious about turtles and how they have managed to adapt, survive, and thrive for so long.


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