Author, illustrator, and children's and teen services librarian.
Inspector Aardvark and the Perfect Cake, Windmill/Wanderer (New York, NY), 1980.
The Biggest Nose, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1985.
The Purse, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1986.
Harry's Smile, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1987.
The Coolest Place in Town, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1990.
Fox and Bear, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1992.
The Wimp, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1994.
Starring Hillary, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1999.
Well Done, Worm!, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2000.
Hillary to the Rescue, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 2000.
The Friendship Tree, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2000.
Wow, It's Worm!, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2001.
Worm Gets a Job, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2004.
Termite Trouble, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2005.
Duck and Company, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2007.
When Kathy Caple was growing up, her dream was to become a dancer. However, during her free time she found herself drawing rather than practicing her plié. As Caple noted on the Walker Books Web site, "I enjoyed doodling in my notebook, and making up stories in my head. I didn't really figure out how to write the stories down, as well as illustrate them, until much later." As an adult, Caple has figured it out, and more than a dozen self-illustrated titles for young readers are the result.
Caple's picture books typically depict a universal problem faced by children, all seen through the eyes of animal characters. Dealing with themes from bullying to friendship to tackling odd jobs, her tales are populated with sheep, pigs, ducks, and worms. Three hippo siblings struggle over who gets to play in their kiddie pool on a hot summer day in The Coolest Place in Town. Comparing Caple's work to Marc Brown's "Arthur" books, a Publishers Weekly critic cited the "snappy dialogue [and] … simple but clever plot" in the summertime-themed picture book.
Two pig siblings deal with bullies in Caple's humorous picture book The Wimp. Arnold is picked on by two school bullies, and his sister Rose calls him a wimp, until she starts to be the focus of teasing as well. Eventually, Arnold figures out a non-violent way to trick the bullies into ending their bullying ways. According to Hazel Rochman, writing in Booklist, readers "will laugh with sympathy at Arnold's humiliation even as they rejoice in his sweet triumph." Caple "is especially skilled at painting [Arnold's] reactions," wrote a contributor to Publishers Weekly.
One of Caple's popular characters is Hillary the cat, a would-be actress who goes on an ill advised diet in Starring Hillary. Although Hillary's sister tells her that she cannot succeed at her audition unless she is skinny, the dieting makes the cat nervous and sleepless until she sees the performance of a rotund actress built more like herself and gains the courage she needs to ace her audition. While writing that Caple's message is perhaps too obvious, a Publishers Weekly concluded that the author/illustrator's "art captures Hillary's spunk and determination." In Hillary to the Rescue, the cat again sees how being different can be good. When she and her friends from the drama club go into the city in the winter to see a performance, only Hillary wears her heavy winter clothing. She gets too hot in the car and has to remove some layers, but when the car gets stuck in a ditch, she has the warm clothing needed to go for help. Ilene Cooper, writing in Booklist, noted that Caple's "pen-and-watercolor illustrations are well drawn and laugh-aloud funny."
Several of Caple's books feature vignettes or short chapters rather than a single story. Fox and Bear features four stories about a pair of friends as they go camping and have other short adventures. A Publishers Weekly critic noted that the emotions of Caple's two characters "are portrayed with immediacy through the action and pictures, never merely related in the text." The Friendship Tree uses the same structure and shows the friendship of two sheep over four seasons as the pair enjoys the forest outside their homes. When one tree is struck by lightning, the neighboring sheep buys her friend a small potted pine tree to plant the next spring. "Caple's soft illustrations depict the changing seasons and emphasize the quiet mood of the episodic plot," wrote a contributor to Horn Book. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the "whisper-soft words and pictures" in The Friendship Tree "say a lot about kindness."
Another animal-centered story by Caple, Duck and Rat is the tale of two booksellers who serve a diverse community of animal customers. Here "Caple's ink-and-gouache pictures furnish funny, easily interpreted scenes of retail life," wrote a contributor to Kirkus Reviews.
Featuring a series of vignettes, Well Done, Worm! introduces another of Caple's recurring characters. In one story, Worm illustrates shape concepts by turning himself into a triangle, a circle, and a square; in another short tale, he paints a picture. Worm's interest in painting continues in Worm Gets a Job, in which he has to earn money in order to enter an art competition. All of his jobs, from babysitting to housecleaning, become disasters, and Worm ultimately loses the job he is good at: creating signs for a store. Luckily, the contest judges see Worm's discarded signs and award him a prize in the competition. "Each of Worm's mishaps is depicted with amusing exaggeration," wrote Linda L. Walkins in School Library Journal.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, June 1, 1994, Hazel Rochman, review of The Wimp, p. 1835; February 15, 2000, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Friendship Tree, p. 1123; October 1, 2000, Hazel Rochman, review of Well Done, Worm!, p. 351; November 15, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of Hillary to the Rescue, p. 646.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 2007, Hope Morrison, review of Duck and Company, p. 76.
Horn Book, July, 2000, review of The Friendship Tree, p. 453.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2004, review of Worm Gets a Job, p. 489; September 1, 2007, review of Duck and Company.
Publishers Weekly, June 21, 1985, review of The Biggest Nose, p. 104; February 9, 1990, review of The Coolest Place in Town, p. 60; March 9, 1992, review of Fox and Bear, p. 56; August 8, 1994, review of The Wimp, p. 434; March 8, 1999, review of Starring Hillary, p. 68; February 14, 2000, review of The Friendship Tree, p. 197.
School Library Journal, September, 1980, Holly Sanhuber, review of Inspector Aardvark and the Perfect Cake, p. 56; April, 2000, Linda M. Kenton, review of The Friendship Tree, p. 92; December, 2000, Piper L. Nyman, review of Hillary to the Rescue, p. 104; March, 2001, Christina F. Renaud, review of Well Done, Worm!, p. 194; July, 2004, Linda L. Walkins, review of Worm Gets a Job, p. 68.
Scholastic Web site,http://www.scholastic.com/ (October 6, 2008), "Kathy Caple."
Walker Books Web site,http://www.walker.co.uk/ (October 6, 2008), "Kathy Caple."