Growing up in a developing country (1970s South Korea), I rarely got my hands on picture books. Sure, there were many children’s books, and from the age of 5 or 6, I was an avid reader. But not picture books, let alone silly, mischievous, whimsical, yet adorable characters’ adventures with their sillier companions (cats, pigs, dogs, and monkeys) or those whimsical animals’ larger than life adventures. Certainly nothing like lots and lots of cats dressed in air force uniforms, or Texas rancher outfits, or a cat resembling Captain Ahab (you should really look for it!) as in John Stadler’s The Cats of Mrs.Calamari. So I take much pleasure reading picture books for this blog, particularly the silliness and whimsy of this story, delivered in pictures page after page. With the inspiring silliness, The Cats of Mrs.Calamari is also a visual festivity for me. So is for my not-yet-four-year-old friend, whose eye for detail is remarkable. Watching him intensely studying the pictures, I wish I would have grown up knowing those books. But nothing is ever too late.
On Monday morning, Mrs. Calamari is moving into her fine apartment, with her many, many cats. On Tuesday, the new landlord, Mr. Gangplank, informs her of a no-cats policy in the building, starting the coming Sunday. Fortunately for Mrs.Calamari, Mr.Gangplank has lost his glasses, so can’t clearly see whether the cats in Mrs. Calamari’s apartment are real, or just statues of cats as Mrs. Calamari assures him. But he has his doubts. So Mr. Gangplank and his dog, Potato, keep their eyes on Mrs. Calamari’s apartment and all her "relatives" coming and going, who look exactly like cats (but he can’t say for sure). Meantime, the gentle Mrs.Calamari and her very nice cat-like relatives save Mr. Gangplank from fire and getting stuck in the window. Now it’s Saturday, Mr. Gangplank invites Mrs. Calamari and her "relatives" to the beach for a celebration of his soon-to-be cat-free life. Then, at the beach, he finds his long-lost glasses. Oh, what will happen to Mrs. Calamari’s cats?
This charming book was a Booklist Editor's Choice, Best of the Best selection by the Chicago Public Library and selected for Read Aloud America. If you happen to be in New Hampshire, visit the Children's Museum of New Hampshire, where you will “Step into a Story” of The Cats of Mrs.Calamari, a permanent life-size exhibit of Mrs. Calamari and her cats.