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Children's Books, Children's Book with Cats and Animals, Children's Literature, Children's Book Reviews

Welcome to the Valley Cats Book Reviews page.

Preston Hill Press is looking for your review of our books Valley Cats: The Adventures of Boonie and River and More Valley Cats.  Just send your book review to our e-mail address, prestonhillpress@gmail.com. Please sign it using only your first initial of your first name, your last name, age, city and state in which you live. 

Example: G Preston, age: 56,  Marquette, Michigan

Thanks for reading our book. We look forward to hearing from you.

More Valley Cats: Fun, Games and New Friends

Dear Gretchen,

I absolutely LOVE your books, love being an understatement!!! They make me feel as if I am living in the Valley, not northern Michigan!!! My favorite chapters in MoreValley Cats: Fun, Games and New Friends were chapter five, Kitten Caboodle; chapter four, Birthday Surprise; and chapter eight, The Tin Cup. Is everything that happens and everybody in there real??? If so, you guys must have a lot of adventurous times!!!

You and your books have inspired me a lot to keep reading and to become a writer; thanks!!! Thanks for these great books, can't wait for the next one!!!

Your reader, Eleri
Age: 11 Michigan



Tyler Tichelaar's review from the Marquette Monthly (December, 2011)

Boonie and River are back in More Valley Cats, and this new book has all the fun and adventures readers came to expect from the first book of this series, Valley Cats: The Adventures of Boonie and River (see December 2010 MM review); this second book also introduces several new friends, both human and feline, and plenty of adventures, fun and games.

Author Gretchen Preston does a marvelous job of balancing her stories and characters with real-life issues children will relate to and learn from.

For example, the book begins with a new cat, Buddy, coming to the Valley. Boonie and River instantly befriend him, but then one day when River sees Boonie playing alone with Buddy, he feels jealous, has a temper tantrum and tells Boonie and Buddy to get out of his yard; fortunately, River soon learns how to have more than one friend.

Other educational stories include a new human neighbor, Winslow, who is blind; the cats learn about blindness, reading Braille, and also watch Winslow save the day by rescuing a lost kitten in the woods because his enhanced hearing allows him to hear the kitten’s cries.
All the stories are set in the Valley, a special neighborhood of families and friends in Upper Michigan; as a special bonus, the book’s end pages have been turned into a map of the Valley.

The cats’ adventures introduce U.P. history and new words to children, ranging from the history of the pasty to the Perseid meteor showers. Many new words like “nocturnal” and “caboodle” are included in a glossary at the end.

Of course, humans and their antics always are interesting and educational to cats. Boonie, River and their friends learn a lot from their human companions, including how to play pranks on three boys, how to stay safe while beekeeping, and the rules to the strange game of baseball.
More Valley Cats brings to life the U.P.’s seasons, and full page colored illustrations throughout make readers pause and marvel over nighttime meteor showers, rainbows that highlight autumn leaves, and scenes of boating and enjoying a very green summer.

A couple of my favorite stories tell of how Boonie and Congo kindly escort a mouse out of their house, and an adventure in a leaking boat. But my favorite story has to be “Road Closed,” when the power goes out in the Valley and everyone gathers to spend the night together, stay warm and play games.

More Valley Cats is broken into 14 fun stories, short enough to read aloud at bedtime, or for children ages 8-11to read on their own.
In the back of the book, Preston thanks her readers and promises, “If you all keep reading…we will keep writing and drawing!” Preston and Neumann currently are at work on the third Valley Cats book.



"More Valley Cats: Fun, Games and New Friends" by Gretchen Preston of Marquette, Michigan, picks up where "Valley Cats: The Adventures of Boonie and River" left off, but with added depth and new life lessons.


The cats live in the Valley, located in the hills above the south shore of Lake Superior. The area's native animals and plant life of Michigan's Upper Peninsula fill the pages, but new cat- and people-friends will amuse the reader too.          

One chapter deals with River's jealousy of newcomer Buddy and how he overcomes his "silly" feeling and adds a new adventurer to his life. Another fun chapter has the cats discovering orphaned kittens during a Valley picnic and seeing them all find new homes.

There's also a science lesson in the chapter "Out All Night" in which the cats learn about fireflies and meteor showers. The cats visit a beehive as well (and are "saved" by person-friend Big Tim from the "buzzing cloud").

But it's the life teachings the Valley Cats learn that really elevate this book.

Buddy is the target of River's unwarranted jealousy, so he too has to learn the meaning of that word. It also concerns Boonie, who's caught in the middle. However, Buddy gets the point across by explaining he doesn't have to go along on their adventures, but there will be times when the three will play together. In fact, River and Buddy ended up playing together, chasing bugs, hunting mice and watching a fat robin eat a big worm -- all the fun things cats like!

In the chapter "Boat Shop Blues," Boonie, River and Buddy enter forbidden territory by entering Big Tim's shop without permission. There they see a band saw, cans of paint, metal boxes filled with tools and a big pile of wood. Of course, misfortune occurs when the cats chase a squirrel, and precious building supplies crash and break in the pursuit.

However, it can be hard for someone to be mad at cats splattered with paint and glue, and Big Tim howls with laughter. The cats also learn their lesson: Never go in Big Tim's boat shop again. There's too much that can go wrong.

All of the tales of adversity in "More Valley Cats" turn out well, and in fun fashion. A game of marble hockey ensues with Buddy, River and Boonie (and fellow cats Leafy and Congo) when the cats are stuck inside as a blizzard rages outside. In "Christmas Catastrophe," trouble is averted when Leafy, stuck in a tall spruce, watches a chipmunk successfully make its way down the tree--and does the same, to the delight of the Valley residents.

The book includes a family gallery with the people and cats of the Valley, and a glossary of terms, such as catcher's squat, fronds, iron ore mine and epoxy.

"More Valley Cats: Fun, Games and New Friends" is a wonderful sequel to the original "Valley Cats: The Adventures of Boonie and River."
                               
Christie Bleck
age 53, Marquette



Valley Cats: The Adventures of Boonie and River

Dear Gretchen,

I just finished the whole "Valley Cats" book. It was amazing. Is this book really Real? Chapter 14 was funny because the yellow lab Lucy was caught in the zucchini leaves! Rock-a-bye-kitty was funny too because when big Tim and the two cats went fishing and they caught a big fish.
The book was great. I really enjoyed it. I would like to meet you sometime.

A. Stephenson, almost 9, Oshkosh, Wisconsin



Gretchen Preston’s “Valley Cats: The Adventures of Boonie and River” is the fun and adventurous story of two cats who first meet during a parade and quickly become close friends. Boonie is a bit more daring than River, who is not allowed to leave his yard, but soon Boonie convinces River he can get the trust of his mistress so they can have adventures.

Those adventures happen in the Valley where Boonie and River live, as well as the surrounding areas of their Upper Michigan home. Author Gretchen Preston based the story upon people and cats she knows in her Michigan home, but readers from any location will enjoy reading these stories. Boonie and River are characters children will love—especially cat lovers. They are reminiscent of characters in earlier friend books for children like the “Frog and Toad” series by Arnold Lobel, but the book is more in-depth, with full length chapters, each being in itself a separate story about one of the Valley Cats’ adventures.

The adventures include exploring the outdoors during the winter, visiting a cave at Broken Indian Rock along Lake Superior, and a rainy day picnic, as well as some bathroom antics when the Valley Cats are cooped inside the house in winter. The stories are visual and the reader will follow the action without any trouble, yet the gorgeous illustrations by Karin Neumann provide an added dimension to the stories. These watercolor pencil drawings are brightly colored to attract children, but adults will also be stunned by how perfectly Neumann captures not just the charm of the cats and the story, but the shadows of trees on the snow, the evening sunset and the humor and sadness—all the emotions and tone—of the story.

Besides simply being a fun read, “Valley Cats” is an educational experience for children. One story encompasses the death of a family pet which may help children relate to and understand death. Other stories highlight the outdoors and read almost like educational field trips. Preston includes a glossary of terms at the book’s end for young readers, with such words as “fire circle,” “Ojibwa” and “zucchini.” Children from about third to fifth grade will most enjoy this book, but it also works well as a read-aloud book for younger children, and even adult readers will greatly appreciate the humor and the gentle tone of the stories.

Although I’m an adult, and I have no children, “Valley Cats” was a true pleasure for me to read.  It not only made me laugh and smile and marvel over the stunning illustrations, but it brought back feelings of my own childhood and fond memories of my own favorite illustrated stories like “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak, and the “George and Martha” stories of James Marshall—the books that first made me love to read and ultimately led to my becoming an author. I have no doubt young children will find that “Valley Cats” will have a similar magical effect upon them.

For more information about author Gretchen Preston, illustrator Karin Neumann and Valley Cats: The Adventures of Boonie and River, visit www.prestonhillpress.com and watch for Preston’s next “Valley Cats” book.

— Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D., and author of the award-winning Narrow Lives

 


Dear Gretchen,

I am a fan of your books. Last Wednesday I had to put my cat Zachary down. He was 10 years old, and his kidneys failed. While we were waiting for my friend, I told Zacki to visit the Valley Cats Road before he went to Heaven. (My friend gave me your books for Christmas.) She drove us to the vets. I told him the Valley Cats got to go outside and have adventures, and since he was an inside cat all his life he could do all the things he dreamed of doing when he sat looking out the window every day.

I told him about "Three Is A Crowd" -- the story of a new cat becoming a new friend and not a threat, and he would be welcome there. I told him the story of "Ode To A Friend" (and the memory mound) and about singing the song "I've Been Working on the Railroad." When I came home from the vets, I went out to the woods, and I carried a lot of rocks up to my flower garden and sang "I've Been Working on the Railroad" in honor of Zachary and in celebration of your books.

Zacki was a mostly gray and root beer-colored brown-striped Maine Coon cat. He weighed 15 pounds and had long hair, which he loved to get brushed.

I hope this book review lets you know you are helping real people deal with real problems. My background is social work and hospital chaplain, and I am also a mom of three children and grandmother of seven. However, Zacki was my friend and companion for such a long time it is hard to get over his loss.

I hope you can use Zacki in one of your stories as "The Spirit Cat Who Came To Visit." Thanks.
 
C. Brown
Marquette
Preston Hill Press
993 Valley Road
Marquette, Michigan 49855
906-360-7608
www.prestonhillpress.com

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