Picture Book Reviews: Together We Ride & Hat Cat

Two splendid picture books all about taking chances on the review docket! First up, courtesy of author Valerie Bolling, I have pleasure of talking about Together We Ride written by Valerie Bolling and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita. Second on review, courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada, is the beautiful Hat Cat written by Troy Wilson and illustrated by Eve Coy. Enjoy!

With starred reviews from The Horn Book Magazine as well as Booklist, Valerie Bolling and Kaylani Juanita’s Together We Ride is a burst of encouraging sunshine in picture book form. A young girl, with the support and help of her father and adorably waggy-tailed pup, gets ready to ride her bicycle outside- no training wheels, no adult holding on and steering! But what happens when the very first ride alone goes wobbly and awry? Will the young girl decide to get back on her bicycle and try again? An exuberant, lyrically pleasing story (perfect for reading aloud!), with bright and lively artwork to match, Together We Ride is a wonderfully engaging, reassuring read. The pairing of Valerie Bolling’s rhythmic, crisp and fluid storytelling (which you might remember from 2020’s Let’s Dance! with Maine Diaz), and Kaylani Juanita’s (Magnificent Homespun Brown with Samara Cole Doyon) beautifully warm, realistic, and detailed illustrations is absolutely perfect here. Children will likely find so much to relate to in the young girl’s story, not only in her big success, but also in learning how to carry on after a setback or two. Whether you’re on the lookout for a book specifically about learning to ride a bicycle, or facing fears, or an engaging story featuring a parent-child (and pup!) tale, Together We Ride is a marvellous pick.

”The old man lived alone. Every day, he stepped onto the back deck and put some peanuts on his hat. And sat, as still and welcoming as a grand old tree. The old man loved the squirrels. And they knew it”. Written by Troy Wilson (Dog vs. Ultra Dog! with Clayton Hammer), and illustrated by Eve Coy (Daddy-Sitting), Hat Cat is a gorgeously tenderhearted story about friendships, felines, and taking leaps. As the story begins, we meet our protagonist, an older gentleman who lives alone. Readers soon learn that he loves to spend time on the bench outside his house, feeding the squirrels, and having the pleasure of their company. One day, however, the old man discovers another furry friend- a darling, smiling cat, hiding under his hat! The old man names the cat Hat, and the duo become fast friends, doing almost everything together- except sitting together outside with the squirrels. As the old man explains to Hat: “Sorry, Hat. I just can’t take the chance. I couldn’t bear to lose you- or the squirrels”. (I must confess that my heart dropped to my feet for moment as the story continues with a turn- but without spoiling everything, I will say that for those worried, this is not a tragic story). A beautifully threaded story from beginning to middle to end that makes its way to satisfying and auspicious closing pages, Hat Cat is simply lovely reading. Troy Wilson’s conversational, artful storytelling makes terrific use of repetition in key moments, while Eve Coy’s watercolour and coloured pencil illustrations are just so expressive and inviting (think along the lines of Sara Ogilvie and Helen Oxenbury’!). For cat lovers, or for those who wish to spend their time inside the pages of a wonderful tale about companionship, Hat Cat is a perfect pick.

I received a copy of Together We Ride courtesy of Valerie Bolling, and I recieved a copy of Hat Cat courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own. Titles have been published and are currently available.

Author: michelle@fabbookreviews

Reference & Children's Librarian. Reader. Reviewer.

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