Buddy books are a staple on the shelves of any first- and second-grade classroom: George and Martha, Henry and Mudge, Frog and Toad. Now James Howe, author of the hilarious Bunnicula books, brings us a memorable new tandem: a sweet dog and cat pair known as Houndsley and Catina. Three linked short stories make up this delightful new offering.

Catina wanted to be a writer. Yes, she did. Armed with a cup of ginger tea, a pencil and lots of paper, each evening she writes another chapter of her book. She is up to Chapter 73 in Life Through the Eyes of a Cat, and she just knows she is going to be a famous writer and win lots of awards. But when best friend Houndsley the dog asks to read the book, he hardly knows what to say. So he says simply, I am speechless. And what about Houndsley? He likes to cook, even for a vegetarian like Catina. And when competitive Catina convinces him to enter a cooking contest, he decides he might just need the new pots and pans that are the prize. But, when he gets there and discovers an audience and, gasp, TV cameras, he has second thoughts and his nervousness gets the best of him. Gently, so gently, while watching fireflies, Houndsley and Catina reflect on their talents together and come to the same conclusion: they do not have to be the best or win prizes to enjoy their hobbies. They can just be friends. A gentle message, delivered at just the right pitch.

To create the book, Howe teamed up with artist Marie- Louise Gay, whose sunny watercolor, collage and pencil illustrations bring more energy to the light, humorous text. Gay's depiction of the spiky-haired Catina and the mellow, oval-faced Houndsley add to the book's charm.

Howe clearly has another winner with Houndsley and Catina, the first entry in a new series.

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