Daily Press (Sunday)

Kids and pets: It’s a bond! These books take a look

- Caroline Luzzatto Caroline Luzzatto has taught preschool and fourth grade. Reach her at luzzatto. bookworms@gmail.com.

Anyone with a pet must have wondered about the secret thoughts and feelings of the creatures we walk, feed, cuddle, care for and live side by side with. Children, who form intense and loving bonds with their pets, no doubt have the same questions. These four books about dogs and cats offer peeks into the hearts and minds of pets … and a bit of insight into the humans who adore them.

“I Am Dog!” by Peter Bently, illustrate­d by Chris Chatterton. (Ages 5 through 7. Penguin Workshop. $18.99.)

Nothing captures the tail-wagging exuberance of being man’s best friend and the world’s happiest creature like Peter Bently’s look at life through the eyes of a dog. (This is, of course, a follow-up to his look at life through the eyes of a cat

— a book with a distinctly different attitude.)

The punchy, poetic text captures the delight of stolen snacks, stinky scents, digging, running and simply being. “I am Dog. I like race. I like feeling wind in face. I like rolls in fox’s smell. Fox’s smell is strong and swell.”

In this howlingly funny story of a dog having his day, the humans are sometimes upset, but Dog is confident in his dogginess and is enjoying the fact that “it’s a dog’s life. I am Dog.”

“Flat Cat” by Tara Lazar, illustrate­d by Pete Oswald. (Ages 3 through 7. Flamingo Books. $18.99.)

There’s no explanatio­n for Flat Cat’s flatness — he’s just “flat as a welcome mat,” and he loves his slim and stealthy profile. “This slick, sly cat could stray and roam anywhere he pleased — keen and unseen.”

But then the unthinkabl­e happens: Flat Cat is accidental­ly tossed in the laundry and emerges from the dryer “the most adorable puffy, furry, fuzzy-wuzzy feline you ever did see.”

For a cat who likes to stay under the radar, it’s a problem. He’s patted, squeezed, snuggled and loved on until he’s about ready to scream — and then, finally, he flattens back out.

Will Flat Cat end up missing the attention? Will he stick to a life of stealth? Flat Cat has some decisions to make about what he really wants — but cool cat that he is, maybe Flat Cat can figure out how to have it both ways.

“Dear Stray” by Kirsten Hubbard, illustrate­d by Susan Gal. (Ages 3 through 7. Nancy Paulsen Books. $18.99.)

The narrowed eyes of girl and kitten meet, and maybe it’s not love at first sight, but there’s definitely a connection.

The little girl in this surprising and tender story admits that her mother doesn’t quite get why, “with so much fluff and fuzz and floof to choose from, I picked sticky, scratchy, spiky you.” But the girl sees a kindred soul in the kitten who seems to be all claws — and the wonderfull­y spiky, scribbly illustrati­ons capture the raw feelings of a kitten (and a child) with the heart of a tiger. The girl considers how hard she tries — and tries and tries — to rein in her own spiky behavior … and, eventually, builds trust, friendship and a loving connection with her slightly wild pet.

“The Rescues: Finding Home” by Tommy Greenwald and Charlie Greenwald, illustrate­d by Shiho Pate. (Ages 5 through 7. Red Comet Press. $14.)

This easy reader tugs on the heartstrin­gs of animal lovers right away, opening in the bustling cages of an animal shelter as Moose, a one-eyed stray dog hoping for a new home, meets Bear, a three-legged pup with the same dream.

“They played together. They napped together.

And they waited together.”

When their dream comes true and they are adopted together, their adventures continue — and their friendship grows to include yet another foundling, a cat in need of a home.

The cat, Tiger, is safe — but she needs a little more attention from her new friends to truly feel that she belongs. The wise pups show that they understand far more than dog treats and squeaky toys in this tender ode to dog, cat and human friendship­s.

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