Nick and his two cats, Verne and Stevenson, do everything together. They swim, they camp, they pedal along on his bicycle. These cats have personality to spare. Verne is loving and playful, while Stevenson is cranky and curmudgeonly—and they have their own ideas about how to spend their free time. When the cats keep Nick from reading by flailing around on top of his open book, Nick decides to teach them to read. The cats ignore his efforts until he hits upon making a flashcard shaped like a fish. Verne loves fish and is suddenly all in. But not Stevenson. He just scowls.
Soon Verne gets his own library card, and he and Nick act out scenes from their favorite books—digging for fossils and bouncing across the moon. They have fun, but they miss Stevenson. When Nick discovers Stevenson’s pirate drawings under the bed, he hatches an idea. Nick and Verne write stories to go with the sketches, and with Stevenson sporting an eye patch, the three huddle under the porch and read their pirate tales. The adventures of Nick, Verne and Stevenson hint that differences in cat’s personalities—and maybe people’s—should be accepted and nourished. We can all get along fine if we focus on each other’s strengths.
In The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read, first-time picture book author Curtis Manley delivers an engaging story that blends seamlessly with Kate Berube’s beguiling drawings. The book is sure to become a read-aloud favorite.
Billie B. Little is the Founding Director of Discovery Center at Murfree Spring, a hands-on museum in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.