Wednesday, December 10, 2014

‘Cat Champions’ by Rob Laidlaw

My beautiful cat Starfire examines
Rob Laidlaw’s book Cat Champions
My assignment this week for my online children’s literature class was to examine an informational picturebook against evaluation criteria in The Joy of Children’s Literature by Denise Johnson.
For the assignment, I couldn’t resist returning to a recent favorite.

Cat Champions, Caring For Our Feline Friends by Rob Laidlaw (2013) addresses issues related to the care of abandoned or feral cats. It places special emphasis upon young “cat champions” who care for these cats.

Among Johnson’s evaluation criteria (page 283 in her book):
  • Organization -- Cat Champions displays a clear pattern and sequence, with headings and subheadings, as it addresses alley cats, cats in shelters, cats in foster care and cats available for adoption. Laidlaw also addresses a section toward educational and fundraising efforts.
  • Style -- Laidlaw’s enthusiasm is very much evident. The dust jacket photos include depictions of the author’s own cats. Laidlaw uses descriptive, precise language to describe the plight of abandoned, feral and neglected cats, while celebrating the ways that young people can make a difference in the lives of these cats.
  • Design and illustrations -- The text is supported by full-color photographs and sidebar informational articles arranged in double-page, full-bleed layouts. There is a direct relationship between the photo illustrations and the topics addressed in the book. I found the format very appealing.
  • Accuracy, Authority and Cultural Authenticity -- Laidlaw, himself an animal caregiver, has also authored other books about animal welfare and activism. His biography addresses his qualifications as a biologist and founder of a wildlife protection group.
I feel that Cat Champions belongs in what Johnson describes as a “Nature” category of informational picturebook (page 280). An entire section of Cat Champions is devoted to the body shape and physical abilities of the domestic cat.

To extend children’s learning, I would encourage them to get involved with a local shelter. I would invite people from local animal welfare groups to make in-class presentations, perhaps even bring especially well-socialized animals with them to the presentations.

The children would be given an overview of ways they can get involved: holding a fundraiser for spay/neuter vouchers for low-income animal caregivers or a neighborhood Trap-Neuter-Return, organizing a blanket drive, helping to socialize shelter animals, providing foster care and even making an adoption commitment for the lifetime of an animal.

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