At Miss Hazeltine’s home for shy and fearful cats, strays and pets who have been labelled hopeless, worthless, or afraid of everything are taken in and gently, slowly rehabilitated. When disaster strikes Miss Hazeltine, will her timid, furry wards find the strength and courage to come to her rescue?
This picture book from Alicia Potter and Birgitta Sif is an absolute charmer from start to finish (even the end pages are wonderful). Certain to delight cat lovers, this gentle story will also appeal strongly to shy, fearful children (and their caregivers), who will likely see themselves represented in Miss Hazeltine’s shy and fearful cats. This lovely quote captures the story’s gentle, positive spirit.
Miss Hazeltine didn’t mind if some cats only watched. She let them be.
Miss Hazeltine told him that, sometimes, she got scared.
“I’m afraid of mushrooms and owls,” she confided. “And I’ve never like the dark.”
She praised Crumb’s love of pitch-black places.
I immediately recognized in this text elements of my own approach to working with children. It is so important that children feel accepted for who they are, and be encouraged to express themselves in their own way. Some children will immediately jump into a program or activity without hesitation, while others might feel more comfortable observing before joining in, or simply sitting on the sidelines. Children might feel brave and fearless one day and shy and fearful the next, or even at different times in the same day! By allowing children to help guide the pace and extent of their participation, educators can help support them as they build confidence, develop independence and experience feelings of self-worth and accomplishment. Working effectively with shy or nervous children can require a bit of extra patience, love and empathy, as well as a strong belief in children and their abilities. Shy children might need a bit more time and reassurance, but with enough patience and love, all children can be supported to reach their potential.
Western society typically encourages individuals to be outgoing, extroverted and assertive, and often rewards boisterous behavior, so it is helpful to be reminded that being shy isn’t a sign of weakness or inferiority. Without giving away too much of the story, the cats eventually change the name of Miss Hazeltine’s establishment to the “Home for Shy and Pretty Brave If You Ask Us Cats”, in honour of the fact that while the cats are still shy, they are no longer quite as timid or fearful. As a naturally shy individual myself, I will be the first to tell you that being shy does not have to stand in the way of living life to the fullest. Being shy isn’t something to be ashamed of, and shy children everywhere can find in this sweet and positive story encouragement and inspiration to believe in themselves and embrace themselves for the unique and wonderful individuals they are.