Little Cat’s Luck
by Marion Dane Bauer
Illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell
Related Activities & Resources:
Marion Dane Bauer’s website:
Marion Dane Bauer’s biography:
Marion Dane Bauer’s Facebook page:
Marion Dane Bauer’s blog:
Marion Dane Bauer’s Google+ page:
Author interview about Little Cat’s Luck:
Allison’s Book Bag interview with Marion Dane Bauer:
Author interview about writing The Blue Ghost:
Author Turf interview with Marion Dane Bauer:
Author webpage on the Simon & Schuster website:
Jennifer A. Bell’s website:
Jennifer A. Bell’s blog:
Interview with Jennifer A. Bell about illustrating Little Cat’s Luck:
Activities & Resources:
Social/Emotional Learning Guide: Little Cat’s Luck
Teaching Guide: Little Cat’s Luck
Based on clues in the text, make a map of the neighborhood that Patches explores. Create figures for Patches, Gus, Mouseling, Squirrel, the Girl, and the Boy, and move these characters through the neighborhood to tell the story.
Create a puppet show based on Little Cat’s Luck. Write a script and then make puppets for each of the characters in the story, including a narrator. Puppets can be made from lunch bags, socks, heavy stock paper and sticks, or various types of fabric. Find lots of ideas for creating puppet on the following website:
Design a comic book that tells Patches’ story. Students can each create a comic book, or each student can be responsible for a page in a class project. Dialogue bubbles should be a part of the comic book. For additional ideas on creating comics, check out the “Tools” and “Lesson plans for elementary” sections of the website, Comics in the Classroom: 100 Tips, Tools, and Resources for Teachers:
Write a news report of the adventures Patches’ has when she follows the golden leaf.
Create a video of the newscast and share with the other readers.
Host a debate on the topic, “Which makes the better pet – dogs or cats?” Students can create their position and then debate in small groups or individually. Invite an administrator or other teachers to serve as judges, using a rubric. Explore the following website for ideas to help students prepare for and present their debates:
Concrete or Shape Poetry
Use the sites below to find lessons plans and online resources to assist in writing concrete or shape poetry. Poem can be shared on bulletin boards, on classroom websites, in digital presentations (e.g. PowerPoint, Prezi, Haiku Deck, Google Slides), or in class/student booklets.
How to write concrete poetry (lesson plans):
Poetry in the Classroom – Concrete Poems:
Shape (or concrete) poems:
How to write a concrete poem:
Write theme poems (Read/Write/Think):
Theme poems: writing extraordinary poems about ordinary objects (Read/Write/Think):
Check the TexQuest digital resources for articles on cats, dogs, pet care, and concrete poetry. These resources include Britannica Online School Edition, National Geographic Kids (Gale), Kids InfoBits (Gale), ¡Informe! (Gale), ProQuest SIRS Discoverer and TeachingBooks.net. See the campus librarian for login information for TexQuest resources.
Use the sites below to gather information for student/class projects or just to find out more about these topics in the book.
All about Cats
Domestic cats (National Geographic):
Cats for kids:
Spotted cats (Ranger Rick):
For Kids: Little cats and big cats:
CATS/Animals for children:
Cat/My animal friends (13:00):
Newborn Kitten Care
Must-know tips for raising kittens:
How to care for newborn kittens:
Newborn kitten care:
Taking care of newborn kittens (8:21):
How to raise newborn kittens (2:54):
All About Dogs
Dogs (Animal Planet):
How smart are dogs? (NOVA) (14:52):
The meaning of dog barks (NOVA):
What do dogs think? Expert Q&A (NOVA):
Dogs Memory Game:
Quiz Whiz/Dogs (National Geographic for Kids):
Moment of Woof (dog facts and photos):
Awesome 8 Great Shelter Dogs (National Geographic for Kids):
DOGS/Animals for children: (2:20)
Wonder of Dogs (BBC documentary) (51:16):
Dog breeds/Part 1 (Children’s Early Learning) (1:56):
Dog breeds/Part 2 (Children’s Early Learning) (1:55):
How to speak dog (National Geographic for Kids):
Taking care of your pets (PBS Kids):
How to care for pets:
How to pick a pet (Ranger Rick):
What do pets need? (3:37):
General cat care (ASPCA):
Cat grooming tips (ASPCA):
Cat nutrition tips (ASPCA):
Common cat behavior issues (ASPCA):
Bringing a cat home:
Cat behavior and training:
General dog care (ASPCA):
Dogs and babies (ASPCA)
Dog grooming tips (ASPCA):
Dog nutrition tips (ASPCA):
Common dog behavior issues (ASPCA):
Based on clues in the text, make a 3-D map of the neighborhood that Patches explores. If available, with basic circuitry skills and tools, use LEDs to illuminate places important to the action of the story.
Create a game, using information gathered from the book and from additional sources. If available, using a program like Scratch or MakeyMakey to enhance the game.
Design a doghouse for Gus. Using available physical materials, construct the doghouse and display with a copy of the book in the library or classroom.
Create a podcast about cats, dogs, or pet care as an individual or small group project. Specific directions for planning, recording, editing, and publishing the podcast are found in Reading Rockets’ Creating podcasts with your students:
Pet care is an ongoing responsibility for any animal owner. Design an invention that simplifies a pet care issue, such as feeding, house training, or grooming. If materials are available, construct a model of the invention and share in the classroom or library.
Use a free kid-friendly online comic strip generator like Make Beliefs Comix to produce a comic strip of Patches’ adventures following the golden leaf in the great, wide world:
Cooking time! Select a tasty pet treat to create for the animal you love:
Check out these websites for cool “make-it” craft projects about cats:
Check out these websites for cool “make-it” craft projects about dogs:
https://feltmagnet.com/crafts/dog-and-puppy-crafts (includes tutorials)
Look at the cover of the book. What mood does the illustration create? What information about the story can the reader gain just by studying the cover?
What is a novel in verse? Why would this book be placed in this category of books?
Sometimes a writer uses the pattern of the words on the page to add meaning to a poem. This creative process is called “concrete” or “shape” poetry. Find an example of concrete or shape poetry on the first page of the book. How does the shape of the words in this phrase add meaning to the poem?
The narrator tells the reader that Patches is a calico cat. Why is Patches a great name for a calico cat?
Patches is looking for a “special place to be her very own.” What are the problems that she finds with possible special places in the house where she lives? What clues to Patches character do we find as she looks for her special place in the house?
What does Patches imagine that the leaf is saying to her as it falls from the tree? Why does Patches take the leaf’s movement as an invitation?
On page 6, find three examples of concrete or shape lines of poetry. Describe how the shape of each of these lines adds to the reader’s enjoyment of the story?
How would you describe Patches’ decision to chase the leaf? What does this tell you about her personality?
At the end of the chase, Patches finds herself all alone. How does Patches react to being separated from her house and family? Describe a time that you were alone and separated from your family. How would you contrast your feelings and behavior when you were alone to the way Patches reacts in the book?
Why does Patches consider her little adventure “excellent luck?” (page 11)
What images does the author use to compare cats born to adventure with Patches’ life so far? How does her playtime with Thomas contrast to the more adventuresome cats on page 11?
What is Patches’ opinion of human beings?
In Chapter 5, make a list of the evidence you find to support the sentence, “Gus was the meanest dog in town.” In this chapter’s description of Gus, what images can also lead the reader to have sympathy for this dog?
What are some reasons that Gus is living in the yard instead of inside the house with his human family? If Gus was your dog, would these behaviors cause you to keep your dog outside? What could you do to help your dog live in the house instead?
How does Gus feel about being the meanest dog in town? At the end of Chapter 5, does Gus’ behavior bother Patches?
What is the narrator saying about cats in general in the sentence, “Like every cat in the world, she knew herself to be beautiful?” Do you think the author is paying cats a compliment with this statement? Share the reason for your opinion.
What power does Patches have over Gus, if only for a moment, as she approaches his doghouse?
What adjectives would you use to describe Patches’ behavior when Gus shouts at her to go away? What clues led you to select these particular describing words for the little cat?
How do Patches’ feelings change as night begins to fall? What factors contribute to these feelings?
The author creates a sense of loneliness in her description of Patches under the postbox. What phrases does she use to emphasize Patches’ situation at the end of the day?
Why is Patches described as a “crazy quilt curl of fur” as she sleeps under the mailbox?
What new physical detail does the reader learn about Patches as the mouseling runs past the little cat? How does this new information add to our general impression of Patches’ character?
How is Patches’ behavior toward the captive mouseling not typical of most cats’ actions?
Why does Patches say, “You have to own a human to have a real name.” Patches thinks that it is important to have a name. Do you know the history of your name? Were you named for a particular person? Do you think your name fits you very well?
What word made Patches decide not to eat the little mouseling? Can you describe a time when you, like the mouseling, found the same word to be helpful in getting out of trouble?
How did the conversation with the squirrel turn out to be another example of this little cat’s luck?
How did the moon help Patches with her plan to get to Gus’ doghouse?
Why did Patches consider the doghouse to be the perfect special place that she had been searching for?
Patches discovered that her new special place had a doglike fragrance or smell. What memories did this smell bring back to Patches? Describe a time that a smell, pleasant or unpleasant, caused you remember an event or someone from your past.
Was Patches surprised when she gave birth to her tiny kittens? Were you surprised to discover that Patches was to be a mother?
What were some of the reasons that Gus responded to Patches’ cry for help? Did the author place clues earlier in the story that Gus might not be “the meanest dog in town” after all?
When Patches’ first kitten was born, the little cat knew just how to take care of her baby.
Scientists call animal behavior that is automatic rather than learned instinct. Can you think of other examples of instinct that you have observed in animals?
Why did Patches give Gus the honor of naming her kitten? Why does the name Moonshadow fit this little kitten? What name would you have chosen for Patches’ first kitten? Describe why you would have selected that particular name.
The author writes that “the main ingredient for happiness – for dogs as well as for us humans – is having someone to love.” Share some examples from the story that support this statement. What are some changes that the characters experience because of love?
How did one character’s decision to go on the squirrel network help solve Patches’ problem of finding her home? Describe a time at home, at school, in sports, or with friends that your decision to act (like Squirrel) made a difference in solving a problem. Share the problem, what you did, and the outcome of your action.
What phrases describing the animals’ return to Patches at the end of the day suggest that their efforts to find her house had not been successful?
Contrast the scene in Chapters 1 and 2 when Patches leaves her home to look for a very special place to the scene in Chapter 24 when Patches leaves her home to return to her kittens. How is the mood of the two scenes different? Support your opinion with examples from the story.
The narrator identifies the word my as “that word, the small one that causes so much trouble in the world.” Explain how the little word my creates a big conflict in the plot. Share a time that the word my resulted in a conflict in which you were involved. How was the problem resolved?
After he traps Patches under his great gray paw, Gus finally decides to release her, even if it means that he might lose the kittens. Why is Gus willing to give up something that he loves so much?
In Chapter 29, Gus howls for days after Patches and her kittens return to their home with the little girl. How does the author create sympathy for the meanest dog in town?
Describe how the mouseling became a hero three times in the story. The very small mouseling was the tiniest character in the book. Share one of your own experiences when someone who was not big or strong actually saved the day when faced with a problem.
The narrator states, “How much gentler our world could be if we only knew how to listen to one another.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Support your position with examples from the story or from your own observations.
The word compromise means “the settlement of a dispute by each party giving up part of its demands.” Describe the compromise that allows Gus and Patches to share the kittens. What was given up? What was gained?
The book ends as it begins, with the image of a golden leaf, floating “this way and that.” Why do you think this is a good closing image for this story?
After reading the book, where do you think Patches’ found her greatest luck?
What was your favorite shape or concrete poetry line in the book? How does the shape of this line reflect the meaning of the words? Why did you select this line as your favorite example of shape or concrete poetry in Little Cat’s Luck?
Book Talk Teasers:
Present the readers theater. At the conclusion of the readers theater, ask the students what they think will happen to Patches as she explores the great, wide world.
Take a class vote on preferences for cats or dogs. After the vote, ask students to share why they prefer cats or dogs as a pet. Share Little Cat’s Luck as a book that both cat and dog lovers might enjoy.
Display a projected image of the cover of the book. Ask the students to predict what the book might be about using the cover and the title as clues.
Fiction and Stories told by animals
Butler, Don Hillestad. The Buddy files: the case of the lost boy. While searching for his mysteriously lost human family, Buddy the dog is adopted by another family and helps solve the mystery of their missing boy. (NoveList Plus)
Engel, Margarita. Mountain dog. When his mother is sent to jail in Los Angeles, eleven-year-old Tony goes to live with his forest ranger great-uncle in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where Tony experiences unconditional love for the first time through his friendship with a rescue dog. (NoveList Plus)
Hobbs, Valerie. Sheep. After a fire destroys the farm where he was born, a young border collie acquires a series of owners and learns about life as he seeks a home and longs to fulfill his life’s purpose of shepherding sheep. (NoveList Plus)
Howe, Peter. Waggit’s Tale. When Waggit is abandoned by his owner as a puppy, he meets a pack of wild dogs who become his friends and teach him to survive in the city park, but when he has a chance to go home with a kind woman who wants to adopt him, he takes it. (NoveList Plus)
Kadohata, Cynthia. Cracker! the best dog in Vietnam. A young soldier in Vietnam bonds with his bomb-sniffing dog. (NoveList Plus)
Lowry, Lois. Stay! Keeper’s story. Separated early in life from his mother and siblings, Keeper tells of his adventures with various humans and his continual search for his little sister. (NoveList Plus)
Martin, Ann M. A dog’s life: the autobiography of a stray. Squirrel, a stray puppy, tells her life story, from her nurturing mother and brother to making her own way in the world, facing busy highways, changing seasons, and humans both gentle and brutal. (NoveList Plus)
Fiction and Novels in Verse
Ain, Beth Levine. Izzy Kline has butterflies: a novel in small moments. Izzy Kline is nervous about her first day of fourth grade, and with new changes at home, there are plenty of reasons for her to feel the butterflies in her stomach. (NoveList Plus)
Bauer, Marion Dane. Little dog, lost. A boy, a dog, and an old man are lonely before the boy plans a rally, the dog looks for a boy, and all the townspeople run to the old man’s aid when lightning strikes his home and something miraculous happens. (NoveList Plus)
Burg, Ann E. Serafina’s promise: a novel in verse. In a poor village outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Serafina works hard to help her family, but dreams of going to school and becoming a doctor–then the earthquake hits and Serafina must summon all her courage to find her father and still get medicine for her sick baby brother as she promised. (NoveList Plus)
Creech, Sharon. Love that dog. A young student, who comes to love poetry through a personal understanding of what different famous poems mean to him, and an appearance at his school by Walter Dean Myers, surprises himself by writing his own inspired poem. (NoveList Plus)
Creech, Sharon. Moo. Follows the efforts of twelve-year-old Reena, who has recently moved to rural Maine, to adjust to a new environment while unexpectedly bonding with an ornery cow. (NoveList Plus)
Haveill, Juanita. Grow: a novel in verse. Two misfit children and other members of a Minneapolis, Minnesota, neighborhood are brought together by a woman creating a community garden. (NoveList Plus)
Sternberg, Julie. Like pickle juice on a cookie. When nine-year-old Eleanor’s beloved babysitter Bibi moves away to care for her ailing father, Eleanor must spend the summer adjusting to a new babysitter while mourning the loss of her old one. (NoveList Plus)
Wissinger, Tamera Will. Gone fishing. In this novel told through poems, nine-year-old Sam loves fishing with his dad, so when his pesky little sister horns in on their fishing trip, he is none too pleased. Includes primer on rhyme, poetry techniques, rhythm, stanzas, and poetic forms. (NoveList Plus)
Fiction, Illustrated Books, and Animals
Beck, W. H. Malcolm under the stars. When a rare coin and a strange code are uncovered in McKenna School, Malcolm and the other classroom pets of the Midnight Academy take on their most challenging assignment yet and, through their investigations, they just might save the school from closing. (NoveList Plus)
Cameron, Ann. Spunky tells all. Called a troublemaker by his human family, a reflective dog defends himself and then relates the family’s adoption of an aristocratic but incompetent cat, who gives him a life purpose and and new way of looking at his world. (NoveList Plus)
DeCamillo, Kate. Flora & Ulysses: the illuminated adventures. Rescuing a squirrel after an accident involving a vacuum cleaner, comic-reading cynic Flora Belle Buckman is astonished when the squirrel, Ulysses, demonstrates astonishing powers of strength and flight after being revived. (NoveList Plus)
Patterson, James. The word of mouse. The illuminating journey of a very special mouse, and the unexpected friendships he makes along the way.
Rylant, Cynthia. Gooseberry Park. When a storm separates Stumpy the squirrel from her newborn babies, her animal friends come to the rescue. (NoveList Plus)
Yolen, Jane. Trash Mountain. When the gray squirrels kill his parents, a young red squirrel vows revenge, finding unlikely allies in the rats and gulls of Trash Mountain. (NoveList Plus)
School Library Journal (January 1, 2016)
Little Cat’s Luck by Marion Dane Bauer. Illustrations by Jennifer A. Bell. Published by
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. 2016. ISBN 978-1-4814-2488-2
(hardcover) ISBN 978-14814-2490-5 (eBook)
Gr 2-5-An inquisitive little calico house cat, on the prowl for a special place all her own,
slips through a loose window screen and finds herself outside, where falling golden
leaves lure her far away from home. At first, one may think that a cat wandering through
town does not make for much of a story. But with deliberate pacing, the feline’s
adventures escalate, and while her boldness grows, so do readers’ trepidations. Indeed,
the ensuing encounter with the meanest dog in town reaches climactic suspense, but
readers still don’t know why the little cat named Patches is seeking a place of her own-
though there are some clues. Written in free verse and using concrete poetry elements
interspersed with charming black-and-white drawings, the book engages on many levels.
The writing in verse shows careful use of words; each sentence is spare but laden with
meaning that moves the story forward. The use of free verse also makes the narration
intimate and immediate, pulling readers right into the events. The story at its most basic is about families and love, but other themes are present, such as friendship, neglect,
bravery, and determination. This is an endearing tale that is told with warmth and humor
and a great understanding of love. This companion novel to Little Dog, Lost (S. & S.,
2012) shines all on its own. VERDICT A good buy for young readers, whether they are
animal lovers or not, and equally appealing to reluctant and voracious readers.-Gretchen
Crowley, Alexandria City Public Libraries, VA © Copyright 2016. Reprinted with
permission from School Library Journal, Copyright 2016.
Booklist (January 1, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 9))
Little Cat’s Luck. Bauer, Marion Dane (author). Illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell. Feb. 2016.
224p. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, $16.99 (9781481424882). Grades 3-5. REVIEW.
First published January 1, 2016 (Booklist).
A tiny cat searching for a special spot, a misunderstood dog, and a tribe of squirrels and
birds, plus one bewildered mouse, come together in this free-verse narrative about being
lost and finding one’s place. One day a dancing leaf beckons to Patches, and soon the
cat has wandered far from home. She takes shelter in a doghouse, and grumpy canine
Gus is none too pleased when he discovers his house guest. He comes around, however,
once he realizes Patches needs a safe place to give birth. When she lets Gus name a
kitten and calls another Gustina in honor of her host, a bond is cemented between the
two. Complications arise when Gus becomes possessive of “his” kittens, and Patches’
human girl needs to be found, but, happily, a host of animals and people come to help.
Newbery Honor Book author Bauer (On My Honor, 1987) has written a poetic and
charming tale for young readers, bolstered by Bell’s adorable, breezy illustrations. Animal
lovers will want to take this home pronto.— Karen Cruze. Used with the permission of