Cover image for Big Cat Pepper
Big Cat Pepper
1st U.S. ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2009.
Physical Description:
1 v. (unpaged) : col. ill. ; 23 x 27 cm.
Added Author:
Big Cat Pepper has always been part of the family, but after he grows very old and dies, the boy who loves him comes to understand his mother's reassurance that "his spirit is forever and can fly, fly, fly."


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book EASY PAR 1 2
Book EASY PAR 1 1
Book EASY PAR 0 1
Book EASY PAR 1 1

On Order



Big Cat Pepper has always been a part of the family. But he seems to be sleeping more and more. And then one day he just doesn't wake up again. "His spirit lives forever," the boy's mother tells him gently. Heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, the complex issue of death for young readers is addressed here in a loving, accessible way.

Author Notes

Elizabeth Partridge grew up in house full of dogs and cats, chameleons, fish, tortoises, and even a pet tarantula. Elizabeth was the first student to graduate with a degree in Women's Studies from the University of California at Berkeley, and later went to Great Britain to study Chinese medicine. She is the author of several books for young readers, including three biographies: Restless Spirit: the Life and Work of Dorothea Lange , This Land Was Made for You and Me: The Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie , and John Lennon: All I Want is the Truth .

Lauren Castillo was raised in Maryland and studied art at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and at New York's School of Visual Arts.

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

"Mama, me, and Pepper,/ always been this way/ Never been without him,/ even for a day," says the young narrator in introducing the main characters of this rhyming story. But Pepper, a big tabby cat, is "way too old" and within a few pages, he dies. Partridge (Whistling) and Castillo (Buffalo Music) don't try to smooth over or rush through the loss, giving their boy protagonist the respect his love and loss deserve (he comes to understand that Pepper will remain "always in my heart"). But the book doesn't make much of an impression. Castillo's mixed-media domestic scenes, rendered in muted tones and composed mostly along the same, prosceniumlike plane, provide reassurance and emotional ballast for both the narrator and readers, as the boy and his mother care for the cat during its final days and bury it in the flower bed. The problem lies with Partridge's singsongy rhymes, which lack even a glimmer of plainspoken eloquence. Passages like "Evenings are so lonely,/ bedtime is the worst./ So full-up with sadness,/ I think I'm gonna burst" feel pat and halfhearted. Ages 3-8. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

After his cat Pepper dies, the narrator continues to grieve until he comes to understand that Pepper will be "'always in my heart.' / Now I know for sure we'll never be apart." Textured mixed-media illustrations feature the boy, his mother, and their cat in some moving scenes. While the rhymes are awkward in places, the story offers a comforting message. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Because of their loyalty and innocence, the death of a pet is especially poignant, and Partridge gets it just right with this tale of a boy and his beloved cat, Pepper. Using simple rhymes, the comforting daily routines described at the outset forewarn tragedy. Sure enough, one day Pepper no longer wants to play. Partridge does not sugarcoat what happens next: Is he gonna die, Momma, / is he gonna die? / Mama said she thought so, / cry, oh cry. The discovery of the dead animal is not shown, but we do see the boy cradling a wrapped bundle that he and his mother place into a flower-bed hole. The rest of the book entails the boy's grief with emotional pencil illustrations of too-dark nights and too-empty rooms. It's all pretty darn sad, but the story is buoyed by a stirring ending: hoping to understand Pepper's spirit, the boy closes his eyes and realizes the breeze feels just like his cat's fur and whiskers. Pets come and go; best to have this one on hand.--Kraus, Daniel Copyright 2009 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 2-"Mama, me, and Pepper/always been this way./Never been without him,/even for a day." So starts this story of a boy who learns that, despite the death of his old cat, they will never really be apart. The fact that Pepper is a loved one, not simply a pet, is visually and textually reinforced throughout the book. Because of the touching nature of the story, the use of rhyme seems off the mark and is occasionally forced, diminishing the emotion. Castillo's mixed-media illustrations lay bare the true drama of the story. The family portrait when Pepper is near death, of the boy holding his cat and the mother holding the boy, shows the trio's strength in the face of the inevitable outcome. Castillo does not emphasize the animal's physical deterioration in the pictures; she simply shows a sprightly cat becoming less sprightly, reinforcing the idea that his death is part of a natural cycle. At the end, when the child senses Pepper's spirit in the air and earth around him, there is the understanding that he, too, has reached this conclusion. Big Cat Pepper is not simple bibliotherapy, but neither is it a deep and meaningful study of the ramifications of death on a close-knit family. It falls somewhere in the middle, buoyed by expressive and touching artwork.-Kara Schaff Dean, Walpole Public Library, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

"Mama, me, and Pepper, / always been this way. / Never been without him, / even for a day." A young African-American boy sure loves his big cat Pepper, but one day Pepper won't play. The next day Pepper won't drink or purr. After the inevitable occurs, mother and son bury the cat in a flowerbed. When the boy asks if Pepper will be scared down there, Mama responds, "No, sugar, no, / I'll tell you why. / His spirit is forever / it can fly, fly, fly." The boy doesn't understand until one day he holds still: The grass tickles his ankles like Pepper's fur, and he hears Pepper's purr in the wind. The boy's heart opens up, and he knows Pepper will always be with him. Castillo's mixed-media illustrations of a rural, single-parent family are smudgily warm and comforting. The entirely secular explanation of death and the fact that there is no substitution pet added to the family in the end make this a very worthwhile addition to bibliotheraputic literature for the young. (Picture book. 3-8) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.