cover image A Box Full of Kittens

A Box Full of Kittens

Sonia Manzano, , illus. by Matt Phelan. . S&S/Atheneum, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-83089-1

Manzano (No Dogs Allowed! ), who plays “Maria” on Sesame Street , travels back to the Bronx neighborhood of her childhood for another picture book filled with warm, colorful characters and loads of Hispanic flavor. Young Ruthie, a diehard Superman fan, longs to be a hero like her caped idol. When she’s asked to visit with her very pregnant Aunt Juanita, it seems as if she just might get to save the day. Though Ruthie proves helpful at fetching her aunt cool treats such as piraqua (a snow cone) and coquito (coconut ice)—and doing so “faster than the speed of light”—it’s the cuddly titular attraction at the local bodega that distracts her from her potentially heroic duties. Aunt Juanita is rushed to the hospital in labor while Ruthie plays with the kittens, making her feel more of a zero than hero. Happily, Juanita sees things differently. Phelan’s sunny and buoyant pencil-and-watercolor compositions capture the rhythms and period details of a bustling, friendly community. To Manzano’s storytelling credit, Spanish terms sprinkled throughout seem slightly exotic, though also familiar. The story and artwork are never overwhelmingly era-specific; the joyful family themes here resonate in a timeless manner. Ages 3-7. (June)