Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What's Up Cat?

For children around the world certain anticipated expectations are attached to the celebration of each and every holiday as well as milestones in their lives.  Their particular culture dictates observed traditions.  Many of these events signal the arrival of a cherished figure of importance.

If we could open a window into the realm of legend and fantasy, we might watch in wonder as these beings go about their work visiting boys and girls.  For their efforts they receive in return the affection of all those children.  It goes without saying that guys and gals will always attempt to catch a glimpse of these beloved characters.

I can't stop smiling when I think of the look on any boy's or girl's face when instead of catching a glimpse of the Easter Bunny making deliveries they see instead a...cat.  Yes...a cat.  Here Comes The Easter Cat (Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA)) written by Deborah Underwood with pictures by Claudia Rueda tells the tale of a disgruntled cat who longs to replace the revered rabbit.

What's wrong, Cat?
You look grumpy.

It seems Cat is more than a little bit jealous of all the good will being given to the Easter Bunny.  Let's think about this.  Who wouldn't appreciate receiving chocolate or colorfully decorated eggs?  In addition it's got to be huge job to accomplish this once a year everywhere in the world.  The Easter Bunny is also undoubtedly the recipient of a good deal of respect.

Perhaps Cat would like to spread a little joy by giving something.  No...Not that!  No...Not that either!  With an unbelievable mode of transportation revealed (Cat can't hop) and a special costume donned, Cat sets off with a rumbling roar to distribute goodies.

Wait a minute.  How can Cat be done already?  What Cat wants now, Cat can't have because the Easter Bunny goes without it.  Shhh...  It's...it's...the Easter Bunny!  Cat?  Cat?!  Oh Cat!!

Deborah Underwood's approach to telling this story is definitely unique; an open invitation for participatory reading.  She has an unseen narrator question and comment in response to Cat's range of expressions and drawings on signboards.  In Cat she has created a character sure to elicit laughter in readers; Cat's crankiness and quick clever answers contrast flawlessly with the later unexpected tenderness.  This in turn sets the stage for the final page of absolute hilarity.

Rendered in ink and colored pencils by Claudia Rueda all the illustrations convey every mood of Cat (and the Easter Bunny) explicitly beginning on the matching dust jack and book case.  Cat is expressing total happiness on the front holding up his preferred method of communication.  Readers will wonder if he indeed has altered a favorite holiday.  On the back we see Cat, arms crossed, in a typical state of cantankerousness.

On the three pages before the title page Rueda begins the story with Cat looking at posters of the Easter Bunny, irritation growing.  With the exception of four sets of two pages, each sequence of the story consists of an illustration on one side with text on the other.  Both are framed with crisp white space.  To perfect the pacing three illustrations are unsupported by words and one sentence has no picture.

The fine lines, the detail work, depicting Cat's body postures and facial features heighten the written words as do the drawings on the signboards.  No matter how many times I've read this book, I continue to laugh out loud when I reach certain pages.  One of my favorite illustrations is when Cat's transportation is shown.  It's so cleverly drawn, so outrageous; you can't help but break into a huge grin.

I can't think of a better book for an Easter treat, than Here Comes The Easter Cat by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Claudia Rueda.  I can already hear the laughter of listeners as this title is shared.  It's guaranteed to delight everyone. (I've had a smile on my face the entire time I've written this review.)  What makes this even better is knowing Cat is returning in another book!

Please follow the links embedded in Deborah Underwood's and Claudia Rueda's names to access their official websites.  At Claudia Rueda's site there is a set of author/illustrator interviews giving insight into the creation of this book.  This link leads to an interview of Deborah Underwood by Debbie Alvarez at The Styling Librarian.

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