Thursday, September 20, 2012

BINKY THE SPACE CAT

By Ashley Spires

(Kids Can Press, 2009)

I live in a rural area that has a healthy population of coyotes and bears.  There is a tendency for pet owners to keep their furry ones inside.  But how would an animal rate its existence if it were permanently house-bound?  Binky is such a pet.  To be sure, he loves his humans—one big, one small—and his good friend Ted, a stuffed mouse toy.  Life is good.

But adventure calls.  Binky feels the need to travel to outer space.  Binky receives a package from F.U.R.S.T. (Felines of the Universe Ready for Space Travel).  Included in the contents is his official Space Cat Certified badge. 

To Binky, outer space is not the moon, Jupiter and a gazillion stars.  It is outside space—everything on the other side of the windows and doors that confine him.  He yearns to fend off aliens, aka flies, and lay claim to distant lands.  He must train for the mission and ready his outer space gear.  The time has come.

Binky the Space Cat is a 64-page easy reader graphic novel, a good pick for students in grades two and three, a rapid read for grade fours.  It took me awhile to view Spires’ main character as a cat.  The ears never really looked like ears to me, especially when the character is shown from the side or the back.  Eventually I just had to go with it.  The black and white blobby is a kitty.  The other characters and illustrated backgrounds are clear and appealing.

The story’s structure and humorous tone bear a strong resemblance to Mélanie Watt’s Scaredy Squirrel series by the same publisher.  Perhaps too strong.  This is essentially Scaredy Squirrel as a graphic novel instead of a picture book.  In the Scaredy series, a squirrel fears leaving the safety of his tree; in Binky, a cat longs to stray from the comforts of his home.  Kids won’t mind the similarities.  In fact, this is a great book to recommend to young readers who love Scaredy Squirrel. 

We know that one way readers strengthen comprehension is by making connections to what they read.  Kids easily make personal connections text, but it is harder to get them to make book-to-book connections.  The pairing of Scaredy Squirrel with Binky the Space Cat would support students in thinking this way.

If nothing else, reading this book will prompt you to take your pet for an immediate outdoor excursion.  If you don’t lead this endeavor, who knows what plans your pet will come up with on its own?!

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