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Cat, What Is That?

Cat, What Is That?

by Tony Johnston

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In clever, teasing verse and minutely observed paintings, Johnston and Minor offer a loving and lovely tribute to our feline friends. From a tiny gray kitten eyeing a goldfish to a fat marmalade lounging on the sofa, here is a panorama of pleasures for any cat lover of any age.


In clever, teasing verse and minutely observed paintings, Johnston and Minor offer a loving and lovely tribute to our feline friends. From a tiny gray kitten eyeing a goldfish to a fat marmalade lounging on the sofa, here is a panorama of pleasures for any cat lover of any age.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As stylish and sleek as cats themselves, this appealing book should capture the attention of feline fanciers young and old. The title does not refer to a question addressed to a cat, but instead poses the question "What is a cat?" The poet, who never mentions the word "cat," offers a lyrical list of the animal's behavior and actions. "It is the Spy/ licking its chin/ waiting all day,/ watching the Fin," for instance, is accompanied by a painting of the back of a gray furry head observing a fish bowl. Like a photographic gift calendar, the book offers a new view of cats with each turn of the page, showing different breeds in various poses with four to eight lines of dense text. Younger children, however, may find the resulting combination of words and pictures occasionally baffling. For instance, the line "It is the Wise./ It is the Foof./ Now it is here./ Now it is poof!" in and of itself is abstract, but the illustration adds to the confusion: a cat on a dock observes the water, as if a fish has just disappeared, thus shifting the pronoun away from the cat to the object the cat observes. Nonetheless, throughout the volume Minor's cats are irresistible and Johnston's compact rhymes often astonishingly apt. Both together capture the essence of the mysterious creature we call cat. All ages. (Aug.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
The brief verses walk on the pages here as purposefully as a cat, as they describe the many ways of felines. They investigate, stalk, hide; mysteriously and lovingly, in the rich, teasing language of the poet that is a delight to read aloud. Minor's naturalistic paintings, sometimes double page and sometimes single page with vignette, are filled with real cat personalities in situations from meadow and back fence to window ledge. Even those who are indifferent to cats will find their hearts stolen by these appealing pusses. 2001, HarperCollins, $15.95. Ages 3 to 9. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3-Pete, a little yellow dog who made a brief appearance in Next Stop Grand Central (Putnam, 2001), is the star with the unstoppable appetite in this title. Starting with "cousin Rocky's accordion," the pup travels alphabetically through friends and family making enemies as he gobbles up anything in sight. Although there does not appear to be much order, there is. Letters are used many times in many words (nouns, adjectives, verbs) or they become part of the illustrations. There are different fonts and colors. The ideas are wild. "S" is not merely for "shoes"; a double-page spread shows Pete with a stinky sneaker, a sandal, a pointy shoe, and a soft suede slipper inside his body. Kalman's trademark bright, sophisticated cartoons burst out of the pages. People reappear in different guises in several pictures. Characters become familiar through a single-sentence description: "In his Wallet, Rocky keeps a list of all the times he was insulted his whole life." Fortunately, Pete destroys the list. There are as many stories and characters here as there are in any family or neighborhood. Viewers move with the frantic pace of the tale but will stop to read a tiny picture, or repeat a combination of sounds. The presentation and ideas are distinctly original and will trigger an imaginative response or awaken innovative thinking. Reading this book is a participatory experience par excellence.-Marlene Gawron, Orange County Library, Orlando, FL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Fascination, admiration, respect, and love for the inscrutable cat are evident on every page of this beautifully designed tribute. The spare verses provide just enough detail to inspire the richly detailed paintings that capture not only individual hairs and whiskers, but also the varied moods, actions, and personalities of these very real cats. The lines, "It is the Claw. / It is the Hook. / It is the Now-how-do-I-look?" are paired with, "It is the Pounce. / It is the Roar: / In a snowstorm / it is the Snore," accompanied by an almost life-sized, touchable orange cat, sprawled on its back on a couch, toes curled and tail curved, eyes closed, smiling, while an imperturbable snow cat outside the window stares straight ahead through the falling snow. Truly a celebration of the grace and complexity of the cat, each luminous painting will appeal to both children and adults. (Picture book. All ages)
ALA Booklist (starred review)
Realistic feline portraits... painted in such fine detail that children... will have trouble resisting the urge to stroke the pictures.

Product Details

Godine, David R. Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.80(w) x 9.80(h) x 0.20(d)
Age Range:
4 - 7 Years

Meet the Author

Tony Johnston has written nearly fifty picture books, including The Wagon and It's About Dogs. Ms. Johnson lives in San Marino, California, with her husband and their three daughters. Wendell Minor is an award-winning illustrator who has collaborated with many noted authors on books for children. Mr. Minor lives in Washington, Connecticut, with his wife, Florence, and, of course, his cats Willie and Sophie.

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