Over the years, my daughter and her friends have devoured various book series whose main characters were animals. I’ve wondered if it was the idea that their beloved pets were out living adventurous lives that kept the kids mesmerized, anxiously awaiting the next book in the series to be published. How clever, I thought, those authors are to turn animals into heroes and villains.
So when JKS Communications reached out to me about a new series based on cats, I was like, “Okay. My kids like cats. I’ll take a look and see if it is a good fit.” I can’t tell you how pleased I was to find that “The Adventures of Phatty and Payaso” is unlike all the others for three main reasons:
* The main characters are minorities
* The book actively seeks to teach character skills lacking in today’s children
* The storyline focuses on bullying.
Let me tell you the storyline first. So the main character, Phatty, is a fat cat who loves to spend his time sitting on his favorite chair and gazing out the window at Central Park. One day, the meanest hawk around lands in his window and begins to threaten him and his friends. At first, Phatty is terrified, but eventually, he musters up his courage to go alone to Central Park to stop the bully. When he doesn’t come back, Payaso sets out to find his best friend, Phatty.
The three main characters reflect three different minorities: an overweight cat, a Latino cat, and a boy on the Autism spectrum. I just love the diversity that is being represented even in an animal-dominated book.
But you know what I love best? It’s the fact that the author, Marie Unanue, is a kindness advocate who wrote this book to help children who are being bullied. She actually thought this storyline out carefully and used a teacher’s resource – CharacterLab.org – to help her focus on key traits that she believes today’s children often need to develop. These traits are:
Curiosity: Taking an interest in ongoing experiences for their own sake; finding subjects and topics fascinating; exploring and discovering
Gratitude: Being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen; taking time to express thanks.
Grit: Finishing what one starts; persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles
Self-control: Regulating what one feels and does in the service of goals and standards; being disciplined; controlling one’s emotions.
Social intelligence: Being aware of the motives and feelings of other people and oneself; knowing what to do to fit into different social situations; knowing what makes other people tick.
and zest: Approaching life with excitement and energy; not doing things halfway or halfheartedly; living life as an adventure; feeling alive and activated.
The characters in the book each reflect one or more of these traits and they teach them to each other…and hopefully the reader, too! For kids who may be suffering (or who have suffered) from bullying, this is a great resource.
Teachers: This book works well with lessons and unit studies about Hispanic culture, minority cultures, special needs, bullying, character skills, relationships, self-worth, and more.
Disclosure: I received a copy of these books for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own.