Ethan and the Strays (Hardcover)

Ethan and the Strays By John Sullivan, Hatem Aly (Illustrator) Cover Image

Ethan and the Strays (Hardcover)

By John Sullivan, Hatem Aly (Illustrator)


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From the award-winning author of Kitten and the Night Watchman comes a heartwarming picture book about a young boy who finds joy in rescuing and caring for stray cats.

On the way to school, Ethan notices some stray kittens in the alleyway. He wants to look after them, but his dad has a strict no-pet policy. Still, with the help of his older brother, Ethan does what he can to rescue the kittens and realizes that caring for something else can bring great joy. This hopeful story is based on the author’s real-life experiences rescuing stray animals.
John Sullivan received the Ezra Jack Keats Award and Margaret Wise Brown Prize for his debut picture book Kitten and the Night Watchman, also named a best book of the year by The Boston GlobeKirkus ReviewsPublishers Weekly, and BookPage. He is also the author of Ethan and the Strays and Stanley’s Secret. John is a cat lover and tap dancer who formerly worked as a night watchman. He lives in Chicago. Visit John at

Hatem Aly is an Egyptian-born illustrator who currently lives in beautiful New Brunswick, Canada, with his wife, son, and more pets than people. He has illustrated many books for young people that earned multiple starred reviews and positions on the New York Times bestseller list including The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad and S. K. Ali, In My Mosque by M. O. Yuksel, the Newbery Honor winner The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz, The Unicorn Rescue Society series also by Adam Gidwitz with several amazing coauthors, Meet Yasmin by Saadia Faruqi, Raj’s Rule (for the Bathroom at School) with Lana Button, How to Feed Your Parents by Ryan Miller, and Ethan and the Strays by John Sullivan. He has more upcoming books and projects in the works. You can find him online @MetaHatem or
Product Details ISBN: 9781534471320
ISBN-10: 1534471324
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
Publication Date: October 3rd, 2023
Pages: 32
Language: English
Every day on their way to and from school, Ethan and his older brother, Sam, pass three stray cats. Ethan would desperately love to keep one, but Dad says no pets. As the weather grows colder, Ethan worries about how they will stay warm and fed. He brings them his leftovers, and Sam buys outdoor cat shelters from a veterinary clinic, where the boys take the cats to be spayed and neutered before re-releasing them. Will Dad change his mind on the no-pets policy?The mixed-media artwork is colorful, the protagonist is adorably cherubic, and it is a positive representation of two brothers of color working together on a project in a sweet, collaborative way. While the story may be thin, it’s a solid, fact-filled book for kiddos curious about cat care, incorporating information about how cat fur grows thicker in winter, how you can calm a cat by draping a blanket over its cage, and how insulated boxes provide shelter for strays. Thoughtful back matter includes resources and tips on how to catch-neuter/spay-return a cat. 
— Booklist Online Exclusive

Ethan, a young boy with dark skin and curly hair, walks to school with his older brother, Sam, as three curious kittens scamper from a shadowy alley. Ethan wonders aloud if they could bring one home and Sam reminds him that their father said no pets, encouraging him not to get attached. Empathetic Ethan cannot ignore his concern for the vulnerable kittens, so the brothers visit the litter each day offering lunchbox scraps. Passing the local animal clinic, the brothers read a sign: “Trap-Neuter-Return.” Ethan is empowered to do more than offer the kittens food after learning that neutering strays contributes to fewer hungry cats on city streets. All the while, Ethan shelters the hope that he will not have to part with the smallest and boldest kitten. Sullivan’s outstanding story and Aly’s warm, expressive mixed media illustrations seamlessly unite to offer an age-appropriate look at what can be done to ­address the cyclical issue of stray animals. Back matter includes additional resources as well as detailed steps on how to trap, neuter, and return homeless cats. VERDICT A demonstration of individual responsibility, this loving and conscientious story deserves a home in all library collections.
— School Library Journal

With touching sensitivity, Sullivan (Stanley’s Secret) creates a story about a child responsibly caring for stray felines. Each day on his walk to school with big brother Sam, Ethan encounters three kittens living in an alley. Yearning for a pet in a “no pets” household, Ethan names the kittens and discerns three distinct personalities: black and white Fluffy is curious, gray Misty is shy, and tiny tabby Dusty is bold. Ethan feeds them from his lunch box and worries about how they’ll stay warm in blustery, snowy weather, and with Sam’s assistance—the depth of their connection is one of the story’s quiet delights—joins the trap-neuter-return movement. Mixed-media cartoon art by Aly (Salat in Secret), which portrays the siblings with brown skin, walk readers through Ethan’s growing understanding of the kittens’ situation, tempering the tale’s instructional aspects with irresistible characterizations. Ethan’s bright eyes reflect a serious eagerness, and Sam exudes pragmatism and patience in a book that offers an affectionately realized vision of what one kid can do. An afterword concludes. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)
— Publishers Weekly