Funny Animals

Three books for children

Here’s a cat story that won’t make you groan. First of all, Rupert, in Jules Feiffer’s latest book for children, “Rupert Can Dance” (Michael di Capua, $17.95), isn’t what you’d call cute, more like an orange Yoda on all fours. And he doesn’t just lie around, he’s got a passion for strutting and prancing while his owner, little Mandy, sleeps. He even uses her dancing shoes.

Then the interesting cat-human dynamic: “Rupert loved having a secret from Mandy. Cats love secrets and Rupert took great pride that his secret was one of the best ever.” When he’s found out, he hides, mortified, under a bed for three days.

“The fun in dancing was to do it his own way. In secret. And without having to take lessons.” Ah. What’s dancing without freedom?

But, no worries, Mandy uses her wits and diplomacy to come up with a mutually beneficial solution, and pet and owner pirouette the day away.

It’s been about 14 years since Mr. Feiffer, now an East Hamptoner, ended his decades-long run as a cartoonist for The Village Voice, where his outwardly happy dancer loosed a worried stream of political and social comment. Graphically speaking, it’s nice to see a return to form.

“The Adventures of Two
Black Bear Cubs”


Northern New Jersey must be one of the world’s great experiments in big game living cheek-by-jowl with humanity and all of its enticingly ripe refuse. Never mind the controversial bear hunts, Susan Kehoe, who owns a second home in East Hampton, headed out into the woods, camera in hand, capturing image after image for “The Adventures of Two Black Bear Cubs” (self-published, $16.95).

The book follows the cubs and their mother from springtime foraging through hibernation — with rare touches like an exhausted mama bear having fallen asleep so quickly she left her paw sticking out of the den — to the day when the growing cubs leave the den behind for good.     

There’s an awful lot of anthropomorphizing here, but kids will love the pictures of the adorable cubs rolling, wrestling, sleeping in branches, snuggling with their mother, and seemingly mugging for the camera.

“I’m Brave!”

Kate and Jim McMullan of Sag Harbor are back with a new installment, “I’m Brave!” (Balzer and Bray, $16.99), in their boyish series of picture books (“I’m Fast!,” “I’m Bad!,” “I’m Dirty!,” “I Stink!”). It stars a grinning red fire engine racing to an inferno at a faceless city warehouse.

He’s nothing if not enthusiastic about his job and every last accoutrement on his six-figure person (I guess the phrase “a whole lotta hose” couldn’t be avoided?). There’s even a matching game tucked into the story featuring the immortal Halligan and other tools of the trade.

These are big, bold images in watercolor and gouache by Mr. McMullan — every one of them a fold-spanning two pages. And while there’s water cannon action, it’s also a good nuts-and-bolts intro to the job of the firefighter, from details as small as the use of wheel chocks to the mundane cleanup afterward and the squeegeeing and repacking of those hoses.