Author and blogger CAT MICHAELS has more than two decades of teaching experience and has managed communication and training programs.
Her chapter books for young and reluctant readers have been recognized for excellence in writing children’s literature with three Purple Dragonfly Awards, a first place honor from the Children’s Literary Classics Book Awards, and a silver medal by the Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards. Her last book, Sweet T and the Turtle Team, also won the Wind Dancer Films competition and was considered for adaptation to movies or TV.
Cat’s latest children’s book, "Just Between Sam and Me," co-written with Rosie Russell, was published in December 2020.
Cat and her family live near Raleigh, North Carolina, where she creates a fairy garden for neighborhood children, enjoys nature photography, works out most days, and writes.
Children get to write their own ending in this sweet early chapter book
To see how how my 7 year-old son and 11 year-old daughter finish the story, come visit us at Mother Daughter Book Reviews.
I was very excited when I was asked to review this book because I love the concept of “interactive” books. We have reviewed When Sam Set Sail by LeAnn Beck which allowed for children to illustrate the story themselves and we frequently borrow the Choose-Your-Ending stories from the library. I tink that there is some benefit to these types of stories as the reader moves from being passive to being active in the story. In the case of Finding Fuzzy, the reader is only taken so far in the story, and it is up to them to create a fitting end to the story.
The basic premise of the story is that a young girl, Jenna and her family, go on vacation to the oceanside where Jenna loses her beloved stuffy, Fuzzy. While initially she is devastated, Jenna’s sisters support and comfort her and she eventually begins to accept that Fuzzy may be gone forever. But, just as the family is wrapping up their vacation, they discover that Fuzzy was “taken” and is being used as a bed for some newborn kittens. Jenna must decide if she will leave Fuzzy behind to protect the kittens or recover her beloved friend. The book itself has beautifully designed pages where kids can write and draw out the rest of the story, or these pages can be downloaded directly from the author’s website.
Children aren’t left to their own devices in undertaking this exercise. The author has included a guide for parents or teachers, (referred to in the text as “Reading Assistants”), to help children think through their ending before they put pencil to paper. For example, there is an outline of steps in the process of creating an ending: 1. Brainstorming ideas; 2. Narrowing the ideas and thinking through the consequences of each option; and, 3. Expressing themselves through writing (verbal learners) and/or pictures (non-verbal learners). I thought this was an easy-to-use and very helpful guideline.
One final word about the illustrations… Irene A. Jahns provided the beautiful water-color illustrations to accompany the text. Finding Fuzzy is considered an early chapter book and children who are newly independent readers still do prefer illustrations in the books they read to break up the monotony of the text. Jahns does an amazing job of creating a “vacation” mood for the setting through the depiction of sweeping oceanside landscapes and snapshots of images such as a sand dollar, a beach pail, a barbecue, and more images that will leave you longing for summertime adventures to begin.
My Bottom Line:
Finding Fuzzy is an early chapter book featuring the opportunity for children to create their own ending to a sweet, summertime story. The main character, Jenna, has a decision to make when she discovers that her beloved stuffed bunny she had lost is now being used to protect a litter of kittens. After weighing out all of the possible outcomes, it is up to the reader to decide what happens next in the story. I thought this was a unique concept that will interest children, especially ones who are interested in writing their own stories (like my daughter!). I recommend this book to parents, homeschoolers, and teachers with children between the ages of 5 and 10.
We've all done it as children. We probably have children who do it right now. There's always a favourite cuddly toy that absolutely has to go everywhere and experience everything that the owner does, and for Jenna that cuddly is Fuzzy the rabbit. It's a lovely basis for a story, and young readers will have great fun saying 'I do that!', no doubt sitting with their own number one toy. We've also all experienced the parent that says it might be best to leave the cuddly at home, and the insistence that everything will work out fine.
The illustrations by Irene A Jahns are adorable, done with soft brushes of pastel colours. Fuzzy himself is a real winner, a sad-faced bunny that any child would want to scoop up and cuddle. Great use is made of the space on pages well - Fuzzy might pop up in a corner looking cheeky, and the text is broken up nicely with scenes from the story, which all suit the warm story perfectly. One of my own favourites is a night-time scene, with the children watching twinkling lights from the porch. It is very evocative of those special moments we all have on holiday, the peaceful times that linger longest in our memories. All the images give a feeling of hazy summer days that made me for one long for a holiday of my own!
This is a book with a difference. The space where the ending should be is blank, leaving readers with the opportunity to take a far more pro-active role in the unfolding of the story. It's time to get creative. It's time to give the story your own ending! There's room for a picture as well, so the budding author can test out their illustration skills too! Children are invited to write the ending and a lot of work has gone into a workshop section that talks the child through the creative process. There are three great tips for us reading assistants to follow - brainstorming, critical thinking, and expressive language styles. The best of the tips, though, is to be encouraging, that any idea could be a good idea.
Finding Fuzzy is an enjoyable story in its own right, but the handling of the final section lifts it into being something a bit special. You will spend most of the story reading with your child, and then there's a shift into a collaboration, working together with the child and encouraging them to get their thoughts down on the page. And there's a chance to do multiple endings - Cat offers a downloadable template on her site, and don't forget that she wants to see the results of your hard work! The whole book is beautifully set out. A must have.
Excellent for parents and teachers alike (you could have a whole class writing their own endings) this is a top KLA recommendation.
A couple of special things about this book: the beautiful illustrations and the "You Decide" ending. The ending is set up for kids to think of what they would do if they were the main character (Jenna.) This is an interesting approach.
The story is sweet, and suitable for all children. The book is set up to get kids to think and discuss what they would do in a certain situation--in this case, giving up a precious friend (the stuffed bunny.) I could see using this in either a classroom setting or as a bedtime story.
The watercolor illustrations really capture a beachy mood and create a great visual for kids as well.
Going to the beach can be very exciting for a young kid and their family. And don't forget, kids always like to take some of their favorite things. Jenna remembered to take her back pack and her favorite blue bunny named Fuzzy. Once on the beach, families explore and settle into their new surroundings. But what happens when that favorite item is lost? What emotional roller coaster does a child go through when they aren't able to find their best friend?
Fuzzy was Jenna's best friend. She would snuggle with her, read with her and Fuzzy would keep her company when she brushed her teeth and combed her hair. When Jenna and her family arrived at the beach there was so much to see and do, she had forgotten all about Fuzzy and it was days later that she realized Fuzzy was gone and if she didn't find her soon, she would be gone forever. Since Fuzzy's disappearance, Jenna felt the days were running together. The families routine was the same day in and day out. Jenna was very sad. Her sisters, Kristen and Tara, rallied together to make their beach holiday a more fun and adventurous experience for Jenna, especially since there were no signs of Fuzzy. One day the girls were exploring in the tall grasses and Jenna discovered a not so friendly cat. The cat was hissing and Jenna saw that there were some new born kittens resting on something. That something turned out to be her beloved Fuzzy. The momma cat was protecting her babies and Fuzzy was providing them comfort just like she had done for Jenna so many times. Now there is a dilemma. Jenna has found her long lost friend. Should she take Fuzzy away from the precious little kittens or should she leave her their to continue comforting the kittens?
Cat Michaels has put young readers in a position to solve the dilemma. Readers must brainstorm and utilize their critical thinking skills to write the ending to Jenna's story. This quick to read chapter book has small colorful illustrations that help readers imagine the beach. Readers will also find that the author has created a world where they use all five senses. The back of the book has tips for parents and teachers to help their readers.
I honestly was impressed with this book more than I thought I would be. The whole twist of letting the reader decide what happens to the story was a nice little twist that was put in there. It gives the reader a chance to write their own ending, and it helps children with their creativity, writing and thinking skills. Another neat feature with this book is that within it is a reading assistant’s guide. This helps if the child is not reading the book alone, and is reading with a teacher/parent/reading assistant. This section gives some different ways that they can help the reader write and come up with their own endings. A very creative thing to have in the book! I think this is the most hands on educational book that I have read so far, and the reader can be happy as well because the ending to the book is the way they think it should end.
The illustrations, done by Irene Jahns, are perfect for the book. Since the book it set on the scenery of a beach atmosphere, Jahns gives it exactly that. The book had a lot of water color and colored pencil kind of look which is what a lot of beach type paintings have in them, which is why I thought it was perfect, in my opinion.
So, if you are looking for a perfect back to school book for your child, I would recommend checking this one out for sure! It’s a reading adventure and educational helpful book all bundled into one. :)
I’m excited to introduce you to my second illustrated chapter book for young readers, Finding Fuzzy: a You-Decide Tale of a Lost Friend. Set on North Carolina's Crystal Coast, this book for grades K-3 is based on family beach trips with my 10 young nieces and nephews, where we stayed in a real cozy yellow cottage.
Book Summary: During the perfect family beach vacation, Jenna loses Fuzzy, her plush blue bunny, and faces the toughest decision of her young life. Can she let go and say good-bye to an old friend? Even Cat doesn't know. Readers will write or draw the ending of this You-Decide tale. Cat shows you how in her book and on her website.
But be forewarned: Once you see Irene A. Jahn's ocean-themed watercolors, you may get a serious case of beach fever -:D!
When I received this book, I was thinking it would be more of a "choose your own adventure" story. In actuality, it is a linear story where the reader gets to choose the ending. The story was very cute and I really like the concept of letting young readers decide how to end the story. It teaches both life and writing skills. I would recommend this book to other parents interested in letting their children practice their writing and creative skills.
*Book obtained through Goodreads First Reads program.
"Finding Fuzzy" is a delightfully illustrated book that your kids can really get involved with by deciding the ending! The book is designed to get kids thinking about decisions and consequences, by using critical thinking skills and working through dilemmas. Gorgeously illustrated with watery colours that evoke long days at the beach, the book is an easy reader for children starting out, or as a relaxing, gentle bedtime read. Lovely! Not to be missed.