Another exciting adventure starring the irrepressible Figaro and his cat-friend Rumba, and the Cool Cats from the cafe - an entertaining picture book in five chapters by Anna Fienberg and Stephen Michael King.
Anna Fienberg is the author of many popular and award-winning books for children of all ages. Stephen Michael King is a very well respected and popular illustrator, who has created Figaro and Rumba just as Anna imagined them.
A great story about friendship between two characters Figaro and Rumba. They are the best of friends who rehearse and perform together at the Cool Cats Café, a café run by the group of cats from Cuba. Both Figaro and Rumba love music but Marta the lead singer is very demanding and points out the errors that Figaro makes in rehearsals and doesn’t want Figaro to be a part of the show. Figaro decides to take a break from rehearsals and joins his friend Dora a delightful friendly ginger cat on an adventure in Marta’s classic catmobile car of 1968. They go exploring but Figaro keeps worrying that there is something hiding in the car. As they embark on their adventure meeting new friends along the way, Figaro keeps questioning that maybe there is a monster in the car.
This text is ideal to introduce to a junior primary audience especially if you want to introduce shared novel experiences in your classroom or use with your genre writing. With a longer text, students are still maintaining interest due to the illustrations being on every page to encourage clarity of their thinking of the story line. There are lots of focus areas that can be used from this text. Having a well known author and illustrator opens up an invitation to explore other books written by Anna Fienberg like the Tashi series and the illustrator Stephen Michael King who has illustrated many popular books. Having displays of these texts in your classroom combined with a photo of the author and illustrator is a great way to encourage children to read other books. There is scope for sequencing of this story as a class and reviewing the characters and brainstorming what sort of personalities they have and creating artwork of the characters. This text can be used to model narrative writing and substituting characters for other characters the students invent.
Treann Clarke, Relief Teacher, SA
Written in larger print with coloured pictures on every page, this junior/middle school chapter book introduces children to the genre of suspense: a monster that keeps appearing and frightening Figaro, but no-one else, and a car crash in a high-jacked car. Its plot follows the traditional introduction of characters, a problem and the solving of that problem through the personification of the cats, a dog who longs to be accepted, and their animal friends. Each of the characters have strong, predictable personalities which emerge during the development of the story. From Marta the prima donna lead singer, to Rolando the sleepy cleaner and Nate car enthusiast , the reader is invited to be part of a fast moving story line where the twists and turns build on the main problem of the monster. The minor problems of a car crash, and a music fiesta help to keep the reader in suspense. The pivotal figure of Figaro exhibits all the traits of an exuberant puppy, with his energetic interruption of conversations, his rushing headlong into new situations, his trusting nature of those he loves, his puppy games, and his inability to blend into a cat chorus – because, of course, he is a dog!
The authors have made good use of descriptive language in this book. While this is a great independent read or a ‘read to’ story, teachers would be able to use it to highlight language learning’s – it is full of similes, personification and alliteration. It also has the opportunity to be used in the teaching of humanities, particularly choosing right over wrong, the acceptance of differences, coping with fear, and belonging. This is a fun book, which children would enjoy immensely.
L Johnston, Firth Primary, NZ
Figaro, the dog, sounds like any child when bored and when people are busy doing something else always wanting to know when things will happen or saying he is hungry. The Cool Cats are trying to rehearse in the cafe they now own. Marta, the lead singer of the Cool Cats, doesn’t want Figaro and his barking to be part of the act. Rumba tires to keep the peace, as Rumba remembers how much they all owe Figaro. The Cool Cats after having been rescued from a crocodile that catnapped them and wanted to sell them to billionaires had been rescued by Figaro. Figaro also rescued Rolando the sloth who now works as a cleaner at the restaurant. Figaro has seen the grey monster at times in the Catmobile, Marta’s car, but then it seems to vanish. Figaro and Dora, one of the Cool Cats who has only a minor part in the singing group, take Marta’s car for a ride. They call in on Nate and Nancy, two possums. While there, Figaro discovers a new skill. But then the unthinkable happens. How are Figaro and his friends ever going to get out of this new trouble?
This chapter book for early readers, written by Anna Feinberg, is humorous and the characters engaging. It is filled with action and should keep young readers curious as to what happens next. The illustrations as you would expect from Stephen Michael King are cute and colourful. The faces of the animal characters are expressive. This is a joyful book that celebrates the art of music and creativity. Teachers would find this fun book useful to incorporate into lessons on music, using individual gifts or talents, trying something new and building self confidence, as well as lessons on friendship, co-operation and working together.
Figaro and Rumba are back in a new chapter book with the Cool Cats. The Cool Cats now own a Cafe - the “Cool Cat Cafe”. Figaro loves to spend time with the cats but they are always very busy rehearsing. They try to include him in the group but he can’t sing in tune so he finds himself with plenty of time on his paws to get up to mischief. His friend Dora convinces him to join her on an adventure in Marta’s (lead singer of the cat’s) car. On the adventure Figaro confronts his nightmares and discovers he does have a musical ability and can be of some use to the band. Stephen Michael King’s whimsical cartoon illustrations further enhances the storyline.
There are many themes that can be explored within the classroom - stealing, consequences, friendships,co-operation, self confidence, dealing with fears as well as finding and using gifts and talents. In the classroom I would explore the theme of using gifts and talents. Students would be encouraged to identify their own personal gifts and talents through the use of musical instruments, different art mediums and writing implements. The results would be displayed.
Narelle Adams, Teacher Librarian, Smithfield West Public School, NSW
This second book in the series is gripping, and, through explanations, readers will find themselves warming quickly to the characters in this story, even without reading the first book. The story starts with musical rehearsals for a new show at the Cool Cats Café. Marta, their best singer, is a perfectionist and rehearsals are tediously long and boring. When Marta begins displaying diva tendencies, Figaro decides to step outside and get some fresh air. One thing leads to another and soon Figaro and Nancy find themselves “borrowing” Marta’s car (the beautiful Catmobile) to go exploring. Of course, this can only lead to a ‘CATastrophe’ as Marta would say.
The reader is also introduced to a mystery in chapter one, with Figaro seeing “strange and haunting” creatures. This is a good introduction to the genre of mystery/suspense writing for young readers. The book also contains examples of similes and alliteration, so is useful as a literacy-teaching tool. When reading this book to my class, I was asked questions such as “where is Cuba?” “what is an empanada?” and “what is salsa?” which led to some cross curriculum learning.
I would also recommend this book for teaching social skills such as: realising your potential, following your dreams, discovering what you are good at and seeing the best in others.The book is written in chapters, by the author of the Tashi series - Anna Fienberg. Stephen Michael King’s illustrations are whimsical and expressive. Recommended for ages 6-9.
Kavita Davies, Early childhood teacher, Ainslie School, ACT