cover image The Scariest Kitten in the World

The Scariest Kitten in the World

Kate Messner, illus. by MacKenzie Haley. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-3743-9005-1

“It’s not too late for you to choose a different book about something more pleasant,” an unseen narrator warns as readers enter a gothic, albeit bright pink, mansion at the start of this picture book; “When you turn the page and have to run screaming for your mama, don’t say I didn’t warn you.” But given that the cover image boasts an adorable white kitten with pink ears and a single fang, it’s evident that something winsome, rather than wicked, this way comes. Sure enough, digitally finished pen and pencil cartooning by Haley (Patrick’s Polka-Dot Tights) reveals the narrator to be the cover-art kitty, whose idea of frightening the audience is letting out a cute “Grrrrarrr!” When it calls its “TERRIFYING FRIENDS” for backup, a craft sesh results in an array of signs for the baby animal colleagues, including a “Spooky Baby Goat” sporting adorable ghost pajamas. What’s a would-be ghoul to do? Happily, a pale-skinned child with curly red hair soon provides the answer: a bubble bath and bedtime under a full moon. Mock-horror text by Messner (Only the Best) has oodles of performance potential, while the art’s sweet-natured, wink-wink personality should remind readers of the sense of empowerment and glee that can come from playing monster. Ages 3–6. Author’s agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Nicole Tugeau, Tugeau 2. (Aug.)