Desser the best ever cat

Author Smith, Maggie,
Language English
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001


A child describes how Dexter the cat had always been part of the family and how much he was loved even after he died.

Subjects :

  • Fiction
  • Cats

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Author Illustrator(s) :

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Best Books :

  • Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for PreK-Grade 6, 13th Edition, 2002 National Council of Teachers of English
  • Best Children's Books of the Year, 2002 Bank Street College of Education
  • Publishers Weekly Best Children's Books, 2001 Cahners
  • Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, March 2001 Cahners

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Awards, Honors & Prizes :

  • Arkansas Diamond Primary Book Award, 2004 Winner Arkansas

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State & Provincial Reading List :

  • Arkansas Diamond Primary Book Award, 2003-2004; Nominee Arkansas

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Reading Measurement Programs:

9780375910562, 9780375810565, 0375910565, 0375810560
Alfred A. Knopf (New York:) 2001.

Accelerated Reader
Interest Level Lower Grade
Book Level 2.6
Accelerated Reader Points 0

Lexile, MetaMetrics, Inc.

Lexile Measure 360
Accelerated Reader Points

Reading Counts-Scholastic
Interest Level K-2
Reading Level 2
Accelerated Reader Points 1

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Reviews :

Ellen Mandel (Booklist, Feb. 15, 2001 (Vol. 97, No. 12))
The life of a family's beloved cat Desser--taken in as a stray kitten and adored by Smith's unnamed child narrator--is lovingly documented in this engaging picture book. Like a scrapbook of memories, the pages turn to reveal Desser chasing toys as a kitten, scrutinizing the new baby, and swatting butterflies, then growing old, and finally dying in his suitcase-bed. Sometimes displayed like photographs mounted in an album, sometimes unbordered and filling a page, Smith's watercolor and pen-and-ink illustrations, decorated with myriad fabriclike patterns--gingham, calico, check, and more--blossom around her spare yet telling text, adding both fun and interest. Reassuring children that pets never leave as long as they are remembered, the book closes with the narrator telling her new kitten all about Desser, who looks on from his framed photo. Put this tender story on the shelf right next to Judith Viorst's The Tenth Good Thing about Barney (1971). Category: Books for the Young--Fiction. 2001, Knopf, $14.95. Ages 4-6.
(PUBLISHER: Alfred A. Knopf (New York:), PUBLISHED: 2001.)

Susie Wilde (Children's Literature)
Death is one of the hardest subjects to discuss with children. Sometimes it is just as difficult talking about the feelings after a death has occurred. Of late, I've noticed a number of new releases that have much to offer grieving families. One of the first deaths many children encounter is the death of a pet. A little girl remembers her beloved cat in Maggie Smith's Desser the Best Cat Ever. The majority of the book describes the small details a young child would notice as she grows up with a cat. These are reflected in the many brightly colored illustrations. There is a sharp contrast when Desser sickens. Then, sad emotions in text and pictures recount Desser's sickness, death and burial. When the book ends, the girl still carries Desser in her heart and shares his stories and pictures with a new kitten. 2001, Knopf, $14.95. Ages 4 to 6.
(PUBLISHER: Alfred A. Knopf (New York:), PUBLISHED: 2001.)

Sue Reichard (Children's Literature)
Animal lovers of all ages will appreciate the odyssey of Dresser the cat. Told from a young child's viewpoint, the narrator grows up with the cat who at one time belonged to her father, "when he had big hair." This moving tribute tells the story of the strong bond between family and feline. It weaves the life of the narrator from birth to learning to walk, which Dresser isn't too happy about, to the birth of a sibling, which strengthens the bond between child and pet. The mutual affection between the two is woven throughout the growing up years. The young narrator relives the sad time of Dresser's illness and old age with a heavy heart. The reader is taken full circle to the purchase of a new kitten from the pound. The expertly written, engaging story ends with hope and joy of a new beginning, while fond memories keep the past alive forever. Smith's whimsical watercolors add a scrapbook-like look, sometimes in mounted fashion. The illustrations add beautiful depth to the text and bring the personalities of the story to life. This is a wonderful book that can be shared and enjoyed by families, in the classroom or anyone who loves animals. 2001, Alfred A. Knopf, $16.99 and $14.95. Ages 4 up.
(PUBLISHER: Alfred A. Knopf (New York:), PUBLISHED: 2001.)

Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2001 (Vol. 69, No. 4))
A young girl reminisces about the life of her cat, Desser, chronicling how the frisky kitten was acquired--"a long, long time ago, when my daddy had big hair"--and how their friendship blossomed. As the tale unfolds, both Desser and the narrator grow up; the passage of time is marked by the girl's milestones, moving from babyhood to childhood, first steps, first day of school, etc. With advancing age, Desser weakens and becomes sickly. Smith ("Dear Daisy, Get Well Soon", 2000, etc.) handles the cat's decline with a delicate honesty. When Desser does die, readers and the narrator are prepared, though sorrowful. What follows is a burial, "with most of his toys and plenty of treats for the long journey up to Cat Heaven," and the eventual arrival of a new kitten. Smith's tale validates the grief a child experiences at the loss of a pet while comforting readers with the notion that although Desser's physical self is gone, he will never be forgotten because of the love the girl had for him. The expressive illustrations deftly convey the emotional tenor of the tale. Smith's renderings of Desser's antics capture the many facets of cathood--from regal aloofness to downright silliness. Every drawing is a salute to the deep bonds between child and pet, filled with typical activities and lots of details. Woven throughout the text, they blend scrapbook-style photographs with engaging vignettes. This forthright, compassionate tale is a sweet, soothing balm for bereaved pet owners as well as any cat lover. 2001, Knopf, $14.95. Category: Picture book. Ages 5 to 8. © 2001 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
(PUBLISHER: Alfred A. Knopf (New York:), PUBLISHED: 2001.)

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
In Smith's (Dear Daisy: Get Well Soon) affecting tribute to Dexter, a beloved pet, a girl narrator unspools "Desser's" history while weaving in family stories, such as her own arrival as a newborn ("When I first came home from the hospital, Desser wasn't sure if he liked me"), her new mobility as a toddler ("He wasn't too happy when I first started walking") and the two bonding at last ("but he was glad when I got my big bed" shows the feline cuddled on top of the youngster). Smith's cheerfully detailed art, a rush of bright colors and intricate patterns on fabrics and wallpaper and arranged like a scrapbook, convincingly reaffirms the mutual affection between child and pet, as well as child and parents, and charts the momentous events of their lives (the first day of school, the arrival of another sibling, etc.). The artwork manages to imbue the cat with expression and personality while remaining true to the animal's nature. The tone of pictures and text saddens when the cat begins to age, and Smith's expert handling of the family's grief and their communication about their feelings of loss will aid any child or adult experiencing a similar situation. This tale with its agile balance of humor and pathos and its emphasis on the importance of both treasuring memories and beginning anew will reassure children who have endured the loss of a pet. Ages 5-8. (Apr.)
(PUBLISHER: Alfred A. Knopf (New York:), PUBLISHED: 2001.)

Billie R. Loving (The Lorgnette - Heart of Texas Reviews (Vol. 14, No. 2))
Any cat person, regardless of age, will love DESSER THE BEST EVER CAT. Desser's name is actually Dexter, but the little girl he belongs to calls him Desser. The vocabulary is chosen for very young children. For example, the child's daddy has "big hair." Sentences are short but develop a bit as the child grows. Desser comes to the daddy's door, and Daddy keeps him. Then he marries, and soon the baby comes. After a while, Desser grows to love him. The pictures are not realistic, but the story is--the baby in the blanket coming from the hospital, baby in the carrier, baby being burped, in her bed, and then as she grows. Smith knows cats--their habits, their temperament. She squeezes in a lot of story in a double-page of pictures. By the size of the children, it is obvious that Desser lives a long life. He is buried with his favorite toys and with treats for his journey to Cat Heaven. Fiction, Highly Recommended. Grades Preschool-K. 2001, Knopf, Unpaged, $14.95. Ages 2 to 6.
(PUBLISHER: Alfred A. Knopf (New York:), PUBLISHED: 2001.)

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Publication Details:

  Publisher ISBN Notes
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001

Media Type: Language Material
1 v. (unpaged):
PZ7.S65474 ([E])

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