'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.' - author Jackie French

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Review: The Catawampus Cat

I had never heard the phrase 'catawumpus' until I read this book. And I love learning new words. It sounded so evocative, so I spent a short time guessing what it might mean.

Naughty? Unusual? Independent? A city-dweller? I was intrigued.

And I'm hoping this is how kids feel when they read the title of this book. For the record, this is how the dictionary defines it:

CATAWUMPUS
[kat-uh-wom-puh s] *Chiefly Midland and Southern US (*this explains why I hadn't heard it!)

adjective
1. askew; awry.
2. positioned diagonally; cater-cornered.

adverb
3. diagonally; obliquely

And yes, author Jason and illustrator Gus perfect capture all of the above with this wonky, intriguing cat.

It all begins when he wanders into town. At an angle. Askew. Awry. The townsfolk stop and stare. Then ever so slowly, tilt their heads to regard the titled cat. And lo and behold--when they tilt their heads... they see a new perspective.

This is a good thing.

And it's not only perspectives that change--it's the everyday newness of looking at things from a different angle ... asymmetric haircuts, abstract coats of paint ... the possibility and journeys that can come from choosing a different book.

I simply adore the uber subtle messaging in this book. It's clever, immensely timely, inspiring and evocative. One of the most important things about children's books is that they should inspire magical thinking and belief in self. And this strange little cat--so very oddly--does that.

Gus Gordon's inimitable illustrations are a collaged joy, with snippety cuttings from vintage catalogues, line art, watercolour and digital renderings that make the heart sing. They carry the humour and depth of the text so delectably, making each page a delight in exploration (and technique).

Watching an entire town become lopsided, and then smirking with delight as that cat responds--at the very end of the book--to everything he's inadvertently achieved, is priceless.

A not-to-be-missed collaboration that I hope is not their last.

Title: The Catawampus Cat
Author: Jason Carter Eaton
Illustrator: Gus Gordon
Publisher: Viking, $24.99
Publication Date: 21 March 2017
Format: Hard cover
ISBN: 9780143785583
For ages: 3 - 8
Type: Picture Book


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