Wednesday, January 24, 2018

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel


 The cat walked through the world . . .”  In the hands of author-illustrator Brendan Wenzel, this everyday occurrence becomes a study in contrasting perspectives.  They All Saw a Cat, but how does a cat look to a child?  To a dog?  To a bee?  To a mouse?! 

They all saw the cat, and we see the cat through each viewer’s eyes in constantly changing artistic styles.  Colors look different to a snake and a skunk, for example.  The sharpness or softness of the image varies, the cat looks thinner or fatter or taller, and the cat’s fur takes on a range of textures and shades, emphasizing the aspects of the cat relevant to each viewer. 

This book is ripe for conversation around the illustrations and the spare narration, as a child can think, talk about, and laugh at the different impressions one cat can give.  Exploring the cat and its viewer on each page will utilize a child’s powers of observation, description, empathy, and comprehension.  And a child may wonder, "How can a worm under the ground 'see' the cat?"

Remember the old story of the seven blind men who were asked to describe an elephant by feeling only the trunk OR the leg OR the tusk?   Ed Young’s variation on the tale called Seven Blind Mice shows the results of seeing only a part of the whole.   In a way that’s “the same only different,” as my mother says, They All Saw a Cat makes crystal-clear that each of us sees (and feels) things differently depending on our viewpoint.  And children will get it without being told that’s the moral of the story! 

Both Seven Blind Mice (also available on DVD or through Hoopla) and They All Saw a Cat are Caldecott Honor Books for the illustrations that practically tell their stories without words.  Caldecott Medal Winner Peter Spier's Noah's Ark is one of my favorite wordless books, and his People explores differences among the many, many inhabitants of the earth.  You can find them all at your Virginia Beach Public Library.
Review by Lynn

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