Phoebe is cultivating a taste for literature. She refines it by marching into a room with a book in the air, calling, “I read! I read!” and waiting to see who interprets that rightly as “You read this to me” and makes space for her on the couch at their side.

With four potential readers-of-books at her disposal, her odds of finding one who isn’t chopping onions or doing schoolwork are good. And so, in the midst of the moments you’d expect in a home with three daughters (dress-up dresses flying, sudden tears over something small), I find moments like this one, where all three girls curl up on the couch together around the newest Elephant & Piggie.

The Secret Life of Walter Kitty, by Barbara Jean Hicks | Little Book, Big Story

The fun of having a toddler discover our library of books for the first time is that she brings back old favorites—books so familiar to the older girls (and to us) that they rarely make their way off the shelves unless Phoebe finds them and, drawn to anything kitty-shaped, marches into a room, waving them in the air. “I read! I read!”

That is how we rediscovered Barbara Jean Hicks’ book, The Secret Life of Walter Kitty.

The Secret Life of Walter Kitty, by Barbara Jean Hicks | Little Book, Big Story

I love everything about this book, from the hilarious storyline (narrated by Walter Kitty, whose delusions of grandeur are recognizable to anyone with a cat) to Dan Santat’s illustrations (which sent me looking for everything else he’d illustrated. Did you know he’s the author and illustrator behind last year’s Caldecott award-winning book?) to the fun of reading this book out loud, silly voices and all.

There’s no theological undercurrent to this one, no connection to Lent, just pure delight. It’s one I’m happy to sit down to again and again when summoned by the call, “I read!”

The Secret Life of Walter Kitty
Barbara Jean Hicks, Dan Santat (2010)

Sadly, The Secret Life of Walter Kitty is no longer in print, but there are some good deals on used copies online. And if you find one in a used bookstore, grab it! You won’t regret it!