I remember a preschool mother coming out of a teacher conference annoyed that the word “shy” had become a bad label. Her daughter was shy, but she was a happy shy child. In Alicia Potter’s book, Miss Hazeltine welcomes the shy cats of the world and while she gently helps them with lessons like “How Not to Fear the Broom”, she doesn’t “mind if some cats only watched.” It is perfectly fine to be shy and fearful at Miss Hazeltine’s home.
With humor and giggle worthy illustrations, Miss Hazeltine’s home proves to be a safe place free of judgment and full of encouragement and love. Miss Hazeltine even shares her own fears: mushrooms, owls and the dark. A mishap during a milk run finds Miss Hazeltine face to face with all three! With a charming loop back to the lesson’s Miss Hazeltine has taught them, the cats set out on a rescue mission. The feared broom even comes into play.
This story is as much about growing and being brave as it is accepting who we are and being happy with ourselves. Share this book with children who may be shy or fearful and you may hear a gentle purr of contentment.
Potter does a wonderful job of creating loops in her story. Miss Hazeltine’s shared fears come back to haunt her, the lessons she taught the cats become necessary for her rescue and yet the cats solve the final problem without the help of the adult in the story.
Potter executes a complete story arc with sweet humor, and quiet wit; perfect for skittery cats. Her lovely lesson is so neatly tucked into the story about Miss Hazeltine and the shy cats that it will curl into the readers lap without them even realizing it.
I’ve read it again and again – and I'm allergic to cats!