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Alfie and the Birthday Surprise

by Shirley Hughes

Published by U.S. edition: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1998

Ages 3 - 6

Alfie helps with preparations for a surprise party for his neighbor, Mr. MacNally from across the street who's turning 52. It's a difficult time for the man, however, because his beloved cat just died of old age the previous week. Told from four-year-old Alfie's perspective, we see the interactions between the two families as they grieve for the cat and prepare for the birthday party. Alfie, his mom, and baby sister, Annie Rose, go shopping for presents, and Mrs. MacNally comes over to Alfie's house to bake the surprise birthday cake. There is a general air of excitement and anticipation for Alfie as everyone gets ready for the surprise party. But, best of all, Alfie is entrusted with caring for Maureen MacNally's surprise gift for her father -- a tiny, rambunctious kitten who bats at the quilt on Alfie's bed and pounces on his feet throughout the night. "Alfie loved feeling him at the end of his bed," Hughes writes. "But he would not have wanted him there every night." As in her previous books about Alfie and his family, Shirley Hughes's vivid watercolor illustrations are at once charming and realistic, specific and universal. Her text ingeniously recreates the everyday drama in the life of a small child because she has chosen just the right details, screened through Alfie's point of view, to tell this child-centered, wholly satisfying story. CCBC categories: Picture Books for Younger Children.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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