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*Farm-Fresh Cats* by Scott Santoro


Farm-Fresh Cats
by Scott Santoro
Ages 3-5 32 pages HarperCollins August 2006 Hardcover    

Rather mysterious happenings take place in Farmer Ray’s garden overnight. Green cat heads have sprouted up where the cabbage was growing! With little bemoaning of the cabbage loss, Farmer Ray and his wife, Norma, happily tend to their new crop. However, problems start to multiply quickly. Soon even the farm animals are affected. The farmer’s inventiveness brings harmony back to the farm and makes even the city folks smile. How long will those smiles hold, though?

These are farmers like no other. Hot-out-of-the-oven, still-on-the-cookie-sheet chocolate chip cookies are fed to the farm chickens by Norma. Farmer Ray watches television with the farm goose on the arm of his recliner and the farm pig on top of the television. Norma and Ray live on a farm like no other, too. At first, it’s an ordinary farm. Plowing takes place, and animals graze. The farm veers far from normal, though, one night while everyone is sleeping.

Sticking out of the garden the next morning are rows of green cat heads. The cats that are awake have orange eyes, and they all have a green, grass-like toupee of hair on the top of their heads. As the cats grow, their necks and bodies are revealed. Soon they begin to meow - picking time is near. At the onset, only the dogs seem to frown about the cats. But then Farmer Ray and Norma see the cats growing under and through their furniture, from their houseplants, and even from inside the lights! Within a week, the cat population becomes ridiculous.

When the farm animals threaten to leave, Ray and Norma know something has to be done to reduce their cat crop. They devise a plan. City folks who come to buy vegetables from Ray and Norma can now leave with a “No Muss! No Fuss!” pet. Although the farm goes back to being ordinary, Farmer Ray notices the moon looks not so ordinary now. And when the city people look in their potted plants, they might be surprised at their new greenery.

This is a perfect picture book. An original plot with likable characters, bright illustrations, and an easy-to-read text make for a fun to read story for both parents and children.

I love the happiness in the pictures. Farmer Ray and Norma are drawn like magnets to their animals, as are the animals to them. In one picture, Farmer Ray and Norma are surrounded by their farm animals, and the ones not surrounding them are running toward them to be with them. And the farm itself is idyllic. The red farmhouse is next to a small duck pond, a full apple tree, and a white wooden fence. A stone path winds away from the house, and a clothesline is seen in the backyard.

Santoro really makes the cats’ transformation into garden-growing cats believable. They all grow at different speeds; some have their nose still in the dirt, and some have only their ears or eyes showing through. And, like all vegetables picked, the cats are different sizes and shapes. “Some were picked too early” and “Some were picked too late.” The too-early cats are not ripe enough, and they have huge heads and little bodies. The too-late cats are over-ripe, and they have little heads and huge bums.

Scott Santoro is the author and illustrator of Isaac the Ice Cream Truck and The Little Skyscraper. Look for the author’s dog Jackie in each book; he’s a white standard poodle. In addition, Santoro's work as storyboard artist and effects animator can be seen in many Disney and DreamWorks movies.

Farm-Fresh Cats ends as if there could be a second book on its way; hopefully the author does write further adventures with these farm fresh felines. This book is an instant hit from Page One.

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  Tanya Boudreau/2006 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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