Christmas for a Kitten, written by Robin Pulver and illustrated by Layne Johnson, tells the story of a kitten, abandoned in the wintertime. The unnamed kitten is tossed out of a car window, in a sack, in the woods. He doesn't give up. He hides in a hollow log, and uses the lessons his mother has taught him to hunt for food. When his hunting takes him near the brightly lit windows of houses, he is wistful. He's resourceful, but lonely.
One day the kitten sees a family in the woods, cutting down a tree. He sneaks into their open trunk, and slinks in through the open door of their house. There, as a tiny stowaway, he finds food and warmth, but also danger (from a fierce dog). He also engages in the sort of destruction that any kitten will engage in, given access to cookies, milk, and a shiny decorated Christmas tree. It's clear that he won't be able to stay with this family, given the destruction he wreaks, and the already entrenched dog. But in the end, he is saved by a Christmas Eve miracle.
The old-fashioned watercolor illustrations suit the mood of this nostalgic story. The kitten is clearly based on a real-life model. He looks ready to climb off of the page. I don't actually care much for cats, but he still tugged at my heartstrings. I think that young kids, three and four year olds, will like the story itself, because it's told from the perspective of the kitten. He doesn't know why these people would be chopping down a tree, or what this white liquid in a glass is, or who this guy is who comes down the chimney. Kids who do know what these things mean will feel smart, while maintaining compassion for the little kitten.
I think that this will make a wonderful read-aloud for preschoolers and early elementary school kids as they get ready for Christmas. But parents should be prepared to hear "Can we get a kitten?" before the first read through is even completed.
Book: Christmas for a Kitten
Author: Robin Pulver, illustrated by Layne Johnson
Publisher: Albert Whitman
Original Publication Date: 2003
Age Range: 3-7
Source of Book: Review copy from the author