Joy's Journey Home by Timothy Connolly
(Summary taken from the back cover of the book) "A heartwarming adventure seen through the eyes of a kitchen named Joy on her way back home. This story is a tale of growth and connection, which is filled with lovable characters, each with their own adventures and lessons learned, all leading Joy toward home where she belongs."
I liked this book, for the most part. It's a fast, easy read. Most of the characters are cute and lovable. I liked that one of the main characters, Angela, is deaf and uses sign language to speak. I have never read a book that has a deaf character in it, and I liked that it brought deafness and sign language to the forefront. I also liked that there were some good lessons to be learned. The characters learn about love, family, and helping each other. I did think, though, that for a cute little kitten story, it was more violent and scary than it should have been. Even though it's with a cat, there is essentially a "birds and the bees" story. I mean, it is a cat, but she falls in love with a stray boy cat, and goes off with him, then he leaves her and she comes back pregnant. She is dejected and upset because he left her alone and pregnant. I'm not sure if a little child would catch it, but I would be uncomfortable reading it to my daughters the way it is written. It's a bit much. There is also a part where a fire burns a barn, collapses, and kills a few kittens. That was a really sad and scary part. Now, there is a surprise at the end that may or may not make things better, but it happens after the sad and scary parts. I know my girls would be upset after reading that part.
So, it has a good ending, it teaches some good lessons, and it brings deafness and sign language to the forefront. I like those things. The illustrations are very cute as well. There were a few parts, though, that I didn't think should have been in the story, or I think they should have been toned down a bit. It's tough because some of the scenes are geared more toward middle graders, but this story of a cute little kitten and her friend Angela will not appeal to them. The story line is geared toward younger children. If I read it to my girls I will definitely read it to them, and I will alter those parts a bit. It is worth reading, though, because the characters do learn some good lessons.
Recommendation: It's kind of tricky. Because it's a kitten story, middle graders really won't be interested, but a few scenes are too much for the K-3 girl crowd. I'd say K-3rd grade girls, but I'd recommend that parents read it first. Maybe other parents will be fine with it. If they read it silently, I'd make sure to discuss those parts with them. It's probably a 2nd grade reading level.
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.