Miss Biscuit, a pet elementary school teacher, teaches a class of dogs. Until one day, when a new student arrives in their class… and she’s a cat! Miss Biscuit’s students are wary at first, and they have a lot of questions for the new girl, but eventually they come to see her as a valuable member of the classroom.
This is a book intended to teach acceptance and the value of diversity, and it’s pretty transparent in its motivations. The characterization of the dog and cat “kids” is effective, and they will remind young readers of real kids they know. Their reactions, conversations with each other, and their ideas about the world feel true to real children. Even the way the dogs (and cat) sit, move, and their facial expressions make them seem like human schoolchildren. They are also very cute, and at times very funny, which will make this a relatable and enjoyable way for children to learn the lessons presented in the book.
The dogs ask their new cat classmate, Samantha, questions like “do you eat mice?” and “can you walk on a leash?” maybe subtle parallels to questions that kids might have for their fellow students from different cultures. The dogs’ anti-cat prejudice is a very mild version of real-world human prejudices—but in fact, the dogs are actually quite decently behaved towards Samantha from the start, after a little chiding from Miss Biscuit. Since their initial reaction toward her was only moderately negative, not out-and-out bullying or fear, when they come around to accepting her at the end it’s not as big of a sea change as it could have been. But the point is still made: others’ differences can be strengths, and if you write them off for being different, you might never know.
There is a section in the back of the book for parents and teachers, discussing the importance of talking to your kids about people who are different from them, and how to make kids more comfortable with diversity, so that further discussions can be had with your kids after reading this book.
Whitney Morton Woodcock is an artist, graphic designer, and a
maybe-someday children’s book illustrator. She has a BFA in
Illustration from the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota,
Florida, and currently resides in Tucson, Arizona with her husband
Brian and a few human and dog children. When she’s not reading (which takes up a lot of time!), she also enjoys cooking, yoga, painting
anything that stands still long enough, and planning vacations she
usually doesn’t end up taking. Her artwork can be found at WhitneyMorton.com and her pet portraiture business is at MaxfieldAndMadison.com.
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