This deceptively simple story begins with a house, in which there are 12 paws. These paws belong to Boo, a corgi in shades of blue, Pepper, a small, fluffy dog, and the Cat. The Cat is sneaky, yellow and orange, and has some things to say.

The first things the Cat has to say are about all the places that make a good napping spot for a cat. When the Cat has a nap attack, they pick the first spot handy—which just happens to be Boo’s bed! Pepper has almost gotten Boo psyched up to deal with this catastrophe, despite their worries about a possible cat surprise, when the Cat moves on to their next project and Boo is left in control of their bed and their squeaky toy. But the cat has some surprises left… not to mention another nap attack!

The story alternates between simple panels, framed in peach hues and with colorful speech bubbles matching the protagonist, to more detailed diagrams and lists produced by the Cat. Young readers will have no problem following the changes in perspective as each is carefully matched to the speaker. Only one animal speaks at a time in each panel. Boo has blue speech balloons and Pepper has a sandy yellow that matches their curly fur. The Cat has more variety in their text, as they diagram how cats find beds, sleep, eat, and more, but mostly speaks in simple black text with lines leading to the cat, rather than speech balloons. The simple art is focused primarily on the three protagonists, including a few accessories as needed like dog beds and a squeaky toy (Popo).

Harper has created many popular comics in picture book, easy reader, and chapter book form. Her anthropomorphic Crafty Cat and Fashion Kitty are enduringly popular, wherever they have not fallen apart, and she contributed a popular title, The Good for Nothing Button! to Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie Like Reading series. This title combines many of the popular aspects of her previous work—simple cartoons, lists and diagrams, a quirky sense of humor, and cute animals – for the start of another intermediate series that is sure to delight young readers.

A word on the binding—I’ve found in the past that Harper’s books have very poor bindings, often paper over board, that simply can’t last through the eager use of many small hands. I was very surprised and pleased by the high quality of this hardcover binding. The cover is glossy and the binding appears to be stitched fairly solidly. For the affordable price, this is very good and while I prefer to purchase Harper’s books in pre-bound form when available, this should hold up well to multiple uses.

This is a little more challenging than the traditional easy reader, but will be a good next step for readers who have finished Elephant and Piggie and moved on to Scholastic’s Acorn series. Teachers will find this a fun and simple way to teach perspectives and voice, and young readers hungry for comics will devour this new series.

Pepper & Boo: A Cat Surprise! 
By Charise Mericle Harper
ISBN: 9781368049047
Little Brown, 2020

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9)

  • Jennifer

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Matheson Memorial Library


    Jennifer Wharton is the Youth Services Librarian at Matheson Memorial Library in Elkhorn, Wisconsin where she maintains the juvenile and young adult graphic novel collections and was responsible for creating the library’s adult graphic novel collection. She is constantly looking for great new comics for kids and teens and new ways to incorporate graphic storytelling in programming. Jennifer blogs for preschool through middle grade at JeanLittleLibrary and has an MLS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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