Petra is the Oakley family’s new kitty, a cute and friendly little creature who only wants to have a home and be loved – and, of course, do what cats do best. The family dog, Bisou, at first fears that Petra is a threat to her place in the family, but they quickly become friends. One day, in an effort to impress Bisou, Petra sneaks out to go after the local squirrel, Peter, but quickly becomes lost. Will her family be able to find her before it’s too late?
NO ORDINARY GIFT is a charming little story about a cat and her adventures. The illustrations are colorful and bright, using a warm and cheerful palette that welcomes children into the story and reassures them even when things get scary. Petra is a mischievous but friendly little kitten, who should appeal readily to children, and her adventures are exciting enough to be interesting without being overly frightening. The story celebrates friendship and family, as the Oakleys, Bisou, and neighboring pets team up to help find Petra, and as a new friend, Slick the feral cat, helps Petra survive in the wild. The story’s language is simple and accessible without being condescending.
However, the book could use some editing, as there are a number of grammar and spelling errors. For example, Petra and Slick are chased off by a woman calling them “flee-infested felines” rather than “flea-infested”, and sentences sometimes run on without benefit of needed punctuation: “Petra wants to eat her mouse but it is not easy she feels like she will vomit.” Since children learn grammar and spelling to a large extent from their reading, it is imperative that children’s books be particularly careful in this regard. Additionally, there are a couple of missed opportunities in the form of areas of the book that could be expanded upon, like the development of the friendship between Petra and Bisou, which goes from fighting to shared treats rather abruptly. It might be nicer to see a more gradual development, perhaps as they learn that playing together is fun, or that there are enough cozy human laps and petting hands to go around. There is at least one loose end left at the end of the book that might worry children, in that once Petra finds her family again, we don’t hear again at all from Slick. While a picture shows him watching from the fence while she reunites with her people, it would be nice if she would at least say thank you and goodbye, just to resolve matters.
NO ORDINARY GIFT is a warmhearted, sweet little tale that will appeal primarily to elementary school kids, particularly those who are fond of cats and/or have pet cats of their own.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader