Title: The Kitten in the Well
Author: Marla Martin
Major Themes: Early Readers, Missionaries, Paraguay
Synopsis: A delightful picture-book style early reader with fascinating stories about a little girl named Mae and her adventures with her family and animals.
Mom and my brothers have been doing a geography course for the last few months, on and off, and seem to be really enjoying it. A couple days ago, while walking through the living room, I happened to see an unfinished picture that someone had been coloring in. It depicted a fruit-selling woman from Colombia, with a basket on her head. That triggered a memory—which ended up in me pulling an easy reader, The Kitten in the Well, off the shelf and reading it to my brothers over the following couple days. I had read this book soon after I first learned to read, and the simple, exciting, relatable story became one of my favorites for a while.
Mae and her family live in Paraguay, where they are missionaries. The jungle surrounds their little farm, but their farm houses many memories, animals, and opportunities to learn. Mae is thrilled one day when her dad brings a cat home for her—and even more thrilled later on, when the cat produces two kittens! She and her family go to have a short worship service with a neighbor, and survive an ordeal with army ants coming through their house. Her kitten falls in the well and drowns, and she learns an important lesson about being content with what we have. Then her family take a trip to visit some friends in a far-off town, and have to take the bus to get there. But when an old, rickety bus comes along, will they survive the trip to see their friends? What happens when the bus literally flies apart?
My brothers thoroughly enjoyed The Kitten in the Well—both the story, and the illustrations! The book is broken up into several sections with sub-sections, so each portion isn’t too long. One of the main things that impressed me about this book when I re-read it is how well the story is told, even with simple words. It’s rich with meaning and a culture many of us have never experienced, and that makes the story a treasure in itself! I also liked the fact that this almost completely a true story. The realism comes through, and is precious to see. In all, I loved re-reading this book, and shared it with some friends after I was done. Any preschooler up well past first- and second-graders would enjoy the chance to hear or read this book!
WARNING: About half-way through the book, a kitten falls in the well and dies. Not graphic, very matter-of-fact.
Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 5 – 6, 7 – 9, 8 – 12