Big Cat Pepper

Big Cat Pepper

by Elizabeth Partridge, Lauren Castillo
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Big Cat Pepper has always been a part of the family. But he seems to be sleeping more and more. And then one day he just doesn't wake up again. "His spirit lives forever," the boy's mother tells him gently. Heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, the complex issue of death for young readers is addressed here in a loving, accessible way.

Overview

Big Cat Pepper has always been a part of the family. But he seems to be sleeping more and more. And then one day he just doesn't wake up again. "His spirit lives forever," the boy's mother tells him gently. Heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, the complex issue of death for young readers is addressed here in a loving, accessible way.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Phyllis Kennemer
Told in first person, the young narrator expresses his love for Pepper, his cat. But the day comes when Pepper no longer feels like playing games. He hides in a cupboard and does not eat much dinner. The boy and his mother comfort the old cat as best they can, wrapping him in blankets and holding him close. When the cat dies, they bury him in the flower bed and cover the spot with rose petals. The boy misses his lifelong companion, but his mother assures him that the cat's spirit lasts forever and it can fly. Some days later, the boy stands in his yard feeling the grass tickle his legs and the wind purring in his ears. He realizes that Pepper will always be in his heart. The illustrations in muted colors convey the loving relationship of the boy, his mom, and his cat in sensitive and perceptive ways. Unfortunately, the rhyming text is awkward and forced, which has the effect of trivializing the story and detracting from its deeper meaning. The book could be used effectively with grieving youngsters by ignoring the words and concentrating on the action and emotions of the pictures. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D.
Publishers Weekly

"Mama, me, and Pepper,/ always been this way/ Never been without him,/ even for a day," says the young narrator in introducing the main characters of this rhyming story. But Pepper, a big tabby cat, is "way too old" and within a few pages, he dies. Partridge (Whistling) and Castillo (Buffalo Music) don't try to smooth over or rush through the loss, giving their boy protagonist the respect his love and loss deserve (he comes to understand that Pepper will remain "always in my heart"). But the book doesn't make much of an impression. Castillo's mixed-media domestic scenes, rendered in muted tones and composed mostly along the same, prosceniumlike plane, provide reassurance and emotional ballast for both the narrator and readers, as the boy and his mother care for the cat during its final days and bury it in the flower bed. The problem lies with Partridge's singsongy rhymes, which lack even a glimmer of plainspoken eloquence. Passages like "Evenings are so lonely,/ bedtime is the worst./ So full-up with sadness,/ I think I'm gonna burst" feel pat and halfhearted. Ages 3-8. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal

K-Gr 2

"Mama, me, and Pepper/always been this way./Never been without him,/even for a day." So starts this story of a boy who learns that, despite the death of his old cat, they will never really be apart. The fact that Pepper is a loved one, not simply a pet, is visually and textually reinforced throughout the book. Because of the touching nature of the story, the use of rhyme seems off the mark and is occasionally forced, diminishing the emotion. Castillo's mixed-media illustrations lay bare the true drama of the story. The family portrait when Pepper is near death, of the boy holding his cat and the mother holding the boy, shows the trio's strength in the face of the inevitable outcome. Castillo does not emphasize the animal's physical deterioration in the pictures; she simply shows a sprightly cat becoming less sprightly, reinforcing the idea that his death is part of a natural cycle. At the end, when the child senses Pepper's spirit in the air and earth around him, there is the understanding that he, too, has reached this conclusion. Big Cat Pepper is not simple bibliotherapy, but neither is it a deep and meaningful study of the ramifications of death on a close-knit family. It falls somewhere in the middle, buoyed by expressive and touching artwork.-Kara Schaff Dean, Walpole Public Library, MA

Kirkus Reviews
"Mama, me, and Pepper, / always been this way. / Never been without him, / even for a day." A young African-American boy sure loves his big cat Pepper, but one day Pepper won't play. The next day Pepper won't drink or purr. After the inevitable occurs, mother and son bury the cat in a flowerbed. When the boy asks if Pepper will be scared down there, Mama responds, "No, sugar, no, / I'll tell you why. / His spirit is forever- / it can fly, fly, fly." The boy doesn't understand until one day he holds still: The grass tickles his ankles like Pepper's fur, and he hears Pepper's purr in the wind. The boy's heart opens up, and he knows Pepper will always be with him. Castillo's mixed-media illustrations of a rural, single-parent family are smudgily warm and comforting. The entirely secular explanation of death and the fact that there is no substitution pet added to the family in the end make this a very worthwhile addition to bibliotheraputic literature for the young. (Picture book. 3-8)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781599900247
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
05/12/2009
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
8.60(w) x 10.20(h) x 0.30(d)
Age Range:
3 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Partridge grew up in house full of dogs and cats, chameleons, fish, tortoises, and even a pet tarantula. Elizabeth was the first student to graduate with a degree in Women's Studies from the University of California at Berkeley, and later went to Great Britain to study Chinese medicine. She is the author of several books for young readers, including three biographies: Restless Spirit: the Life and Work of Dorothea Lange, This Land Was Made for You and Me: The Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie, and John Lennon: All I Want is the Truth. www.elizabethpartridge.com

Lauren Castillo was raised in Maryland and studied art at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and at New York's School of Visual Arts. www.laurencastillo.com

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >