Here Comes Santa Cat, by Deborah Underwood, pictures by Claudia Rueda (2014)
This book is very different than what I expected from the cover, actually. It is told half in words, implied to be half of a conversation with Cat, and half in images, where Cat communicates using signs and facial expressions.
In the book, Cat realizes that his track record suggests that Santa will not be bringing him anything this year (he’s been pretty naughty), so he decides that he will become Santa and give himself a gift. The speaker (the implied person who is talking to Cat) suggests that Cat is short a few necessary qualifications (like being able to fly reindeer and go down chimneys) and suggests that he try being nice instead (because it’s never too late!). Cat, however, is not particularly skilled at being nice and isn’t very successful with his attempts. The speaker thinks that Santa will appreciate Cat’s efforts anyway, and the speaker gives Cat a gift also: two cans of fancy cat food! Cat is happy with the gift but disgruntled when a little kitten shows up looking wistfully at the food. Cat begrudgingly gives the kitten one can of the cat food and is surprised and pleased by the hug the kitten gives him in thanks. Cat has finally done something nice, just in time for Santa to arrive with a present for Cat: an elf costume so Cat can help him. Cat returns the favor by giving Santa a gift, too: a sign that says “HO HO HO” so Santa doesn’t have to.
As far as readership for this book, I think that a shared read-aloud is great…as long as the listeners can understand the signs that Cat holds up. I explained what some of them said or showed (in the case of the naughty/nice pie graph) to BoyChild, but I think it would hold listeners’ attention better (and be funnier for them) if they could read them for themselves. (Amazon/the publisher suggests ages 3-5, but I think they’d really be missing out on what most makes the book funny, and the School Library Journal review places it as a preschool to 3rd grade interest range.) Being able to “read” facial expressions is another skill that helps in full enjoyment of this book. GirlChild seemed to think it was pretty funny, and BoyChild liked it too…after we clued him in to some of the things he missed. Probably best as a read-aloud or independent read for early to middle elementary students. (For more holiday fun with Cat, the author/illustrator team has also published Here Comes the Easter Cat, Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat, and Here Comes Valentine Cat!)