Friday, February 08, 2008


Author and Illustrator: Yoon-duck Kwon
Age group: 4-8 years

This is one of those books in which the illustrations carry more weight than the text itself. The package might seem simple, superficially, but shrouded underneath are deeper messages that are crucial for growing children. Another significant attraction would be the fact that it can be a wonderful treat for cat lovers and cat loving or pet loving children! Let me move on and embark on the task of peeling off the layers of the charming tale, from my own perspective and based on some research that I did.

The book opens up with an introductory note about the cat and the relationship the girl bears with the animal. In the girl's opinion, her cat is mostly independent except, when ignored, when she actually tries to imitate her!. The skin-deep impression is that of a girl declaring how her shy cat ends up copying her a lot. Snapshots of the cat and the girl entertaining themselves in merriment are what follow. We see the girl and her pet hiding behind newspapers, furniture and clothes, chasing flies and watching bugs.

But going beyond and reading between the lines leads us into some dry humor, the subtle fact that the cat is actually doing what cats very typically do! This leaves us with the feeling that a lonely girl is actually seeking consolation in the company of her cat.

Midway, the tables turn - "But from now on... ... I will copy my cat!"

"Like my cat, I'll look outside.
I'll watch the darkness, and I won't be afraid."

In the ensuing pages are illustrations of the girl and her feline friend climbing high (as seen on the cover page, which all makes sense now) stretching their bodies in unison, fearlessly stepping "out" and making new friends. The positivity in the chosen actions are undeniable and sets the stage for the transition in the girl's persona.

And now is when the message begins to crystallize - an introverted girl has actually turned to her cat friend to face her fears and face the world. The closing image is that of the girl playing with her new friends, other neighborhood children, along with her cat! Not beating around the bush, a timid child will probably be able to relate to the girl and more importantly learn to lean on something and break free.

The grey outlining to vibrant images adds interest. Another subtlety is the intentional dark background on the few pages when the girl actually sheds her fears and opens up. The backdrop is a Korean household and neighborhood, imparting the Asian feel to the book. A background check on the author revealed the artistic credentials she bears in brushwork painting, Asian landscape painting and Buddhist paintings. A rather mild drawback in my opinion would be the lack of stronger, firmer or more substantial text to convey the very significant and wonderful message the book carries. While the simplicity of the surface reading is to be appreciated the lack of depth in the text to corroborate the illustrations and hence the message can be a tad unsatisfying. However, the demystifying process seems very satisfying!

1 comment:

Praba Ram said...

Kane/Miller books are lovely, aren't they?

Yes - checked this one out! minimal text and vibrant illustrations - compares to a haiku poetry in its beauty...

Loved your free-spirited zen like review - the way you've peeled the layers to highlight deeper messages! :-)

Also reminds me of Taro Gomi's My Friends - a book we loved reading during K's toddlerhood stage - goes like - my friend the ant that taught me to explore, my friends the teachers taught me to study, my friend the book taught me to read...Do check that one out too!


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