Wednesday, January 25, 2017

711 (2017 #9). They All Saw A Cat

by Brendan Wenzel

When the American Library Association announced its annual Youth Media Award recipients on January 23, 2017, I pulled the one honoree I'd already ordered earlier in the year (because it was a picture book on the 2017-2018 Texas Bluebonnet Award reading list) from the to-be-cataloged shelf at my university library.  I also went to my local public library and checked out the two picture books they had that were honorees.  I was going to write about all three together, but one book deserves a post all its own.

The Randolph Caldecott Medal "honors the illustrator of the year's most distinguished American picture book for children."  Receiving an Honor Book designation this year was They All Saw a Cat, written and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel.

This is an incredibly clever book that explores the concepts of observation, perspective, and point of view.  The text is simple and patterned and repetitive (all good features for a book for young children):

The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws...
and the child saw A CAT,
and the dog saw A CAT,
and the fox saw A CAT,
Yes they all saw the cat.

Except, of course, as the illustrations make obvious, each one of these sees the cat differently.  The same pattern is repeated more times with different sets of creatures, such as a fish,

 a bee,

a snake,

a skunk,

and a bat.

The illustrations for some of the latter animals will inspire questions - for example, why does the skunk see the cat as black and white?  Why does the bee see the cat as a bunch of colored dots?  The book doesn't have any explanatory notes at the end, so it might encourage parents/teachers and children/students to do a little science research.

And then, some of the animals "see" the cat based on their relationships with it - such as the mouse, a cat's prey - prompting some thought about perception and empathy.  One of my friends pointed out that a colorblind child would have a different perception of the bee's image, for example.

Brendan Wenzel used a lot of different media (colored and "regular" pencils, oil pastels, watercolor, charcoal, acrylic paint, Magic Markers, and an iBook) and techniques to create his illustrations, which could also spark more discussion.

The publisher's website has a trailer, teacher's guide, and activity kit for the book.  They All Saw a Cat definitely deserved Caldecott honors.

© Amanda Pape - 2017

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]

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