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Picture These Gorgeous Cats

While you’re anxiously awaiting the release of My Cat Isis, take a look at some of my other favourite picture books about cats. (I’ve linked to amazon.ca pages for more information, but you can order any still in print from your local independent bookstore.)

Clever Cat, written and illustrated by Peter Collington (Jonathan Cape, 2000)

This book is funny and intelligent, hence ideal for cat lovers (naturally attuned to things funny and intelligent). It tells the story of a a seemingly extraordinary cat who learns just how clever all the lazing, tinned-food-eating felines around him really are. Collington’s detailed pictures capture every emotion on the hero’s sweet face and match his text perfectly. A good choice for readers of all ages, especially older ones.

Cat and Mouse, written and illustrated by Tomek Bogacki (Douglas & McIntyre, 1996).

Bogacki’s illustrations are gorgeous and rich and gentle and moving and I just want to fall into them. His cat and mouse books are beautiful stories of friendship and small adventures, ideal for the very young (cat lovers or not). Also try Cat and Mouse in the Snow, and any other Bogacki cat and mouse book you can get your hands on.

Mouse, Look Out!, written by Judi Waite and illustrated by Norma Burgin (Dutton, 2001)

I often return to this book for inspiration. It’s a gorgeous read-aloud, poetic and musical with just a bit of repetition that never tires (though I’m quickly tired by repetition). The illustrations match the text in beauty and depth, and give kids something to search for on each page, as they follow a mouse through an abandoned house with a cute little killer on his trail. The cat is not the hero in this one, and the ending will satisfy even the youngest fans of all species.  

The Cat who Liked Potato Soup, written by Terry Farish and illustrated by Barry Root (Candlewick, 2003).

Don’t let the title put you off: this is not the story of a fussy eater. It’s about an old man and his cat, and it’s one of those rare books that capture a lifetime in a tiny tale.  The writing is elegant yet homey, nicely brought to life by the moody illustrations. Serious but entertaining, substantial but light-hearted – in the best sense of making your heart feel light – this is a beautiful book for all ages, especially older children. 

Not Red Cat, White Cat

Red Cat, White Cat, written by Peter Mandel and illustrated by Clare Mackie (Henry Holt, 1994).

It’s a sad state when you can’t find a photo of one of your favourite cat book covers. Red Cat, White Cat is a rhyming book of opposites that some lucky people have a copy of. (Red Cat, White Cat is also the title of a book subtitled, China and the Contradictions of Market Socialism, but that one’s not for toddlers.) Mandel’s text is sweetly simple, a couple of words per page, brought to life by Clare Mackie’s vivid illustrations. (You get a sense of her whimsical style from her cover of First Comes Love, written by Jennifer Davis.) Gorgeous and fun for the very young. 

Wabi Sabi, written by Mark Reibstein and illustrated by Ed Young (Little, Brown, 2008).

This is a sophisticated story of a cat in search of the meaning of his name. No, it’s not the Japanese horseradish, wasabi. It’s the Japanese philosophy of beauty found in simple ordinary life, wabi sabi. What better to embody that than a cat? Beautiful haiku and stunning collage illustrations, this book is gorgeous on all counts.

Bad Luck Boswell, written and illustrated by Diane Dawson Hearn (Simon & Schuster, 1995).

This modern folktale about a cat that brings bad luck everywhere he goes has stayed on my bookshelf through many purges. I just can’t give that forlorn face away. Like any good folktale, Hearn’s story is full of action, with fun-to-read text and vibrant illustrations. There is kindness and cruelty, hope and fear, a villain and a hero – that’s the cat – and a very happy ending. What’s not to love?

Puss in Boots, written by Philip Pullman and illustrated by Ian Beck (Knopf, 2001).

Puss in Boots is my favourite fairy tale – tricking an ogre never tires for me and, oh, those boots! While I’m partial to the original Perrault tale, I haven’t read a version I didn’t like. My son adored this updated and expanded rendition by Philip Pullman and Ian Beck, and so did I. Additional characters, problems, and asides make for an adventurous book. Fun to read aloud but equally excellent for older children to read quietly (except the giggling) on their own.

There now, that’s enough to keep readers in purrs and whiskers until My Cat Isis  comes out in March. (Written by Catherine Austen and illustrated by Virginie Egger, Kids Can Press, 2011.)

Maybe one day Virginie and I will be on someone else’s list of favourite cat books for the very young. I hope so.

BTW, all book covers on this page – and anywhere else on the web – are copyrighted material (illustrators hold copyright to their cover illustrations), so please use only for promotional purposes (promotion of the book, that is, not of your own stuff) with proper publishing credits. Don’t put them on T-shirts. (I know it’s tempting, but it’s illegal.)


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