Early Readers – Houndsley and Catina and the Quiet Time

A sudden snow storm threatens to cancel the concert that Houndsley and Catina have been looking forward to for weeks. Catina is worried, and frets over all the preparations she had planned to make that day, and which the snow is preventing her from accomplishing. The more easy-going Houndsley is delighted by the opportunities the snow has brought, and convinces Catina that they can enjoy themselves and have fun on their “snow island”. In the end, the concert is played in the snow, and everyone has a wonderful time.

This early reader book is on the more advanced end of the spectrum. The formatting is done with correct paragraph breaks, and the sentences are longer and more complex. There are six or seven long sentences on most pages. James Howe’s writing is more sophisticated than the average early reader as well. As an example, when the musicians begin to play in the snow “…the notes fell on listening ears like snowflakes on waiting tongues, gently, softly, there for a flicker before melting away.” Children who are getting ready for chapter books will be pleased to find that this series does not talk down to them. They might not quite be ready for “those big thick books” just yet, but that does not mean that children beginning to read will not appreciate an offering that is not afraid to have a moment of quiet reflection.

That is not to discount the gentle humor in the story as well, such as the neighbor’s intrusion with his cymbals, or the realization that they have dozens and dozens of cookies left over. The illustrations by Marie-Louise Gay, done in watercolor, pencil, and collage, match the book’s tone perfectly. The colors are evident and unmistakable without the eye-popping, almost glaring brightness that is so common in this genre. The pictures support the text, reflecting the action, even when that “action” is just to be curled up with a book. There is a sense of quiet and peace in the illustrations that also reflect the text and tone of the rest of the book.


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