Review: Hard Hat Cat

Hard Hat Cat! by Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh, illustrated by Maxine Lee

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Mirele Kessous

This picture book tells the story of how a stray cat, who hangs out at a construction site in Israel, comes to find his forever home. The story is told from the perspective of Ari, a young boy who notices the cat but whose mom won’t let him keep it. Children will be able to relate to Ari’s desire to keep the stray animal and they will follow along as Ari visits all of his neighbors, trying to entice them to adopt the cat.

Kiffel-Alcheh’s writing is an unusual blend of poetry, prose, and sounds. While the plot will appeal to children as old as 8, the writing contains onomatopoeic words geared towards a much younger audience ("meow meow, bzz bzz!, bang bang," etc.). Some older children might be put off by that. Still, the pacing of the story is engaging, and Kiffel Alcheh incorporates Hebrew vocabulary as well as characters unique to Israel (the boreka man, for instance). The ending is also quite clever, and older readers will appreciate the nuance of it.

Maxine Lee’s illustrations are lively and bright, and her stray cats are absolutely charming. The bold colors and relative simplicity of the pictures will appeal to the preschool set, in particular.

It seems that the author was trying to appeal to all ages from babies through early elementary school. Was she successful? I think, overall, yes. Hard Hat Cat makes an excellent read-aloud for families with children in a range of ages.

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Reviewer Mirele Kessous says: I am a certified librarian with a specialty in children's and young adult library services. This is my 7th year working at The Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, MD. Most librarians choose their profession in a somewhat circuitous path, and I am no exception. After spending 12 years at Jewish day schools, I moved from Boston to Rhode Island to get a B.A. in Visual Art from Brown University where I specialized in children's illustration. I then moved to N.Y.C. where I landed several teaching jobs straight out of college. Ultimately though, I decided to combine my love of children, teaching and reading with my passion for illustration to become a children's librarian. So, I went back to school to earn a Master's of Library Science from Queens College, which I completed in 2011.

To me, CESJDS is a wonderful place to work, because the atmosphere is very community oriented. I enjoy seeing the same faces every day, which is not something you get in a public or academic library.

When I’m not reading, I enjoy spending time with my wonderful husband and 3 children.

Fun Fact: I had a personal correspondence with Mr. Rogers; he published my letter to him in one of his books.