Max Attacks by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Penelope Dullaghan - book review & teaching ideas

I'm a dog person. Sorry cat folks. My adult children have five cats between them, and I appreciate my grandcats, but I own two doggies: Jebediah Peabody. & Annie Roo.

Here they are:

Yes, it's weird that I placed my two dogs within this book review about a cat named Max.... I once had a dog named Max, he was CRAZY, but I digress even further! 
The reason I am placing a picture of my two dogs smack in the middle of a posting on Max Attacks is because I loved this book almost as much as I loved They All Saw A Cat and I am beginning to wonder if my five grandcats are chipping away at my dog adoration.
Here is Boba Cat:
Here is Taxi Cat:
Here is Choco Cat:
Here is Lemons Cat:
Here is Shrimp Cat (yes, she is disabled):
See! Cute grandcats!
But, we are here to talk about Max Attacks and I adore Max even though I am not a cat person. His facial expressions are exactly that of a cat getting into all sorts of mayhem. His personality shines right out of the pages. Max is blue, about the color of Pete the Cat (another favorite!), with black stripes. He reminds me so much of Boba Cat (shhh, he's my favorite grandcat). Max has a desire to "trounce and pounce" the swishy fishies in the bowl, but he keeps getting distracted by all the fun things to pounce upon: shoelaces, a lizard, socks, etc.  I don't usually write much about illustrators, not my expertise, but Penelope Dullaghan does an amazing job painting the psyche of cats. She perfectly complements Kathi Appelt's curious and attacking cat.

Max Attacks is a great read aloud with its rhymes as big and bouncy as protagonist Max. I highly recommend it for classrooms Pre-K - 3rd purchase as well as all elementary libraries. I think this one may have a shot at a Caldecott.

Genre: Picture Book, Animal Tales
Age: 4 - 8
Pages: 40
Publisher: Atheneum, a division of Simon & Schuster Kids
Date: June 2019
ISBN: 9781481451468
Acquired: Personal Copy

Themes: Cat Behaviors, Getting Distracted Easily, Winning (or not)
Characters: Max is great.  Doggie in the background looks bewildered by Max (as most dogs do when watching crazy cats). Even the fishies seem to wonder what's up with Max!
Plot: Will Max stay focused long enough to get the fishies?
Originality: There are lots of cat books, but Max Attacks is a stand out. His personality is so indicative of cat behavior and most young children can identify with getting easily distracted in a big, new, beautiful world with so many things to do and see.
Believability: Complete understanding of cat behavior, aided by perfect illustrations to convey those emotions. You'll be rooting for Max even though you won't want the fishies made into stew.

Teaching Ideas:

Vocabulary: pounce, trounce, midst, gusto, catnip, crouches, snag, dangling, kaput, cozy, trusty 
Discussion: There are lots of opportunities to predict and infer. Pages are not numbered, but...
1. On the page right before Max sees the lizard, ask what is going to happen (he is going after that lizard!)
2. What does Max want to do with the fishies? (Fishy stew)
3. What does Max do after he starts "twitchy" and "switchy" (repeated several times throughout, Max is getting ready to attack)
4. On the page when Ma and the dog get wet, ask what happened (Max attacked the bowl with water in it and they got splashed)
5. On the very last page, the lizard is sneaking off the page sideways. What does this say about Max "winning?"
6. And, don't forget the big question: Did Max win or did the fish? The illustrations are so important to this tale. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.7 Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.)
1. Write the couplet rhyme words and have the students practice them by looking at common spelling/sound patterns. Here are the rhyming couplets:
2. As you can see there are several phonemic patterns to explore there too! And, a couple nonsense words to explore! (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.1.2.D Segment spoken single-syllable words into their complete sequence of individual sounds (phonemes)
3. Discuss how the rhyming words create meaning (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.4 Describe how words and phrases (e.g., regular beats, alliteration, rhymes, repeated lines) supply rhythm and meaning in a story, poem, or song.) 
4. Max Attacks is a complete sentence and says a lot. Review the parts of a complete sentence.
(CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.1.1.A Recognize the distinguishing features of a sentence (e.g., first word, capitalization, ending punctuation.)

Kathi Appelt is a fabulous children's writer, one of my favorites. You can read more about her on her website: HERE.

Penelope Dullaghan is an award-winning illustrator. Max Attacks is her first children's book. You can read more about her on her website: HERE.

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