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The Cat Who Liked Potato Soup

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Overview

With down-home language that’s a joy to read aloud, Terry Farish tells a wry, unconventional love story about an unlikely pair of curmudgeons - brought to life in glowing illustrations by Barry Root.

The cat was fond of the man’s potato soup,
which made him love her a breath more,
but not so’s you’d notice.

There was an old man, an ol’ Texas boy, who lived on a road called ...

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Overview

With down-home language that’s a joy to read aloud, Terry Farish tells a wry, unconventional love story about an unlikely pair of curmudgeons - brought to life in glowing illustrations by Barry Root.

The cat was fond of the man’s potato soup,
which made him love her a breath more,
but not so’s you’d notice.

There was an old man, an ol’ Texas boy, who lived on a road called Chatterpie with an uppity old cat - a cat who’d rather eat potato soup than catch blackbirds. A cat who liked to go fishing and sit on the bow of the old man’s boat, her face into the wind, like she was a hood ornament. "Fool cat," the old man would say. "You ain’t nobody’s prize." Then one day something unexpected happens, and they both learn that even the most cantankerous love can inspire acts of heroic proportions - but not, of course, so’s you’d notice.

The friendship between an old man and his cat, both of whom like potato soup, is strained after he goes fishing without her.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Farish (Talking in Animal) and Root (Nobody's Dog) prove a dynamic team in this endearing tale of "an old man, an ol' Texas boy,/ country-raised, don't you know" living alone with a cat "who he liked,/ but not so's you'd notice." Root imbues their cozy country house with personality: bare bulbs hang from the ceiling casting light on simple 1950s furniture, a garden grows in an outdoor bathtub, a toilet by the mailbox collects "junk mail." The single-page and full-spread watercolor and gouache paintings framed in white borders also portray the unspoken bond between man and cat. Together they eat potato soup, listen to the "terrible ruckus" of blackbirds and often fish together. But one morning, their rhythm is altered: the cat sleeps in and readers can feel the man's pregnant pause at the door as he grudgingly leaves the cat behind; shadows stretch across the rug as the warm orange and golden tones of the previous spreads fade to somber purple. In the following full-spread scene, he fishes alone in his boat, lost in a bleak, gray fog of long silver and tarnished copper brushstrokes, and returns to find her gone. The return of the golden light to the artist's palette signals the cat's return before he sees her, flailing her tail on the porch with a huge fish under her paw. The final scene of man and cat asleep on the bed in the glow of moonlight evokes the priceless value of mutual affection. Ages 6-up. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
The heartbreak that can follow when we take those we love for granted is the theme of this story of an old man who is finally able to show his love for his "worthless cat that never caught nothin'." The old man and his lone cat live together in a small house, eating potato soup and going fishing together; the old man likes the cat, "but not so's you'd notice." Then one day, he leaves without her on a fishing trip, only to find, when he returns, that she has left him. The old man's loneliness is palpable, as he searches everywhere for his cat, finally finding her back on his porch, with a first and only catch of her own to display. Farish's text is written in a folksy, down-home style that brings its deep emotions to the surface; Root's large watercolor paintings have humorous touches (the old man has a toilet next to his mailbox, labeled JUNK MAIL), but are for the most part almost unbearably poignant: showing us the old man's blankly staring eyes as he eats his potato soup alone, and then the closing contentment as the two friends fall asleep together, with a tray bearing two empty bowls of potato soup on the floor beside the bed. The theme seems somewhat adult for a picture book, but this would be a good choice for children who are able to savor powerful emotions and face issues of misunderstanding, loss, and reconciliation. 2003, Candlewick,
— Claudia Mills
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3-A curmudgeonly old man and a standoffish cat share potato soup, an electric blanket, and regular fishing trips near their small, comfortable home. When the cat gets tired and the man goes fishing without her, the insulted feline disappears. She howls out the story of her ocean adventure when she returns, and the two reconcile contentedly. The simple tale sparkles with warmth and good humor, thanks to the casual storyteller's voice that carries the narrative. The man liked the cat, "but not so's you'd notice," and "The cat was fond of the man's potato soup, which made him love her a breath more-." Their true feelings are reflected in the watercolor-and-gouache paintings. An early illustration shows the man happily preparing soup with the cat looking on attentively, if not eagerly. This contrasts subtly to a later scene in which the man dines alone, with eyes up as if his lost pet might return at any minute. The prickly relationship between the human and the animal rings true, along with a broader message of friendship. By the time the two are reconciled, readers feel like they know this pair pretty well, more by how they act than by anything they say. The carefully chosen words and charming simplicity of the illustrations lead to an unsentimental, but very satisfying tale of companionship.-Steven Engelfried, Beaverton City Library, OR Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Root’s spare, warm-hued rural scenes perfectly capture the tone of this tender tale about two curmudgeons--a grizzled "ol’ Texas boy, country-raised, don’t you know," and a cat--sharing one roof. Though "not so’s you’d notice," the old man likes having the cat, which has never killed a bird, or even a mouse, around--especially on his daily fishing expeditions, during which she perches on the boat’s bow like a figurehead. One morning, though, he leaves her sleeping comfortably on their new electric blanket and when he comes back, she’s gone. Days later, she reappears, with a large bass and in a colossal snit at being left behind and having to do the fishing herself. Happy to see her, "and this time, you’d notice," he endures her nonverbal tongue-lashing, and by bedtime, domestic harmony is restored. Older readers especially will be pleased and amused by Farish’s evocative language as well as the rich array of subtle verbal and visual nuances here. (Picture book. 6-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763608347
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2003
  • Edition description: 1ST US
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 6 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.50 (w) x 10.13 (h) x 0.35 (d)

Meet the Author

Terry Farish is the author of several young adult novels. She says of THE CAT WHO LIKED POTATO SOUP, "This story began in the kitchen of our old-timer neighbor, Jimmy Fowler. My daughter and I were visiting with him there, gossiping about some village cat or other. Jimmy didn’t have a cat, but he said if we got one, wouldn’t we name it after him? And we did . We got a cat and named her Jimmy."

Barry Root is the illustrator of many books for children. He says, "I’ve always been pro-cat, although our house is divided on the subject. To appreciate a cat requires a certain amount of abstraction, I think - and a sense of humor." Barry Root lives in rural Pennsylvania with his wife (the illustrator Kimberly Bulcken Root), their three children, and a couple of useless dogs.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2003

    A UNIQUE, RICH TALE

    This endearing story about an old man and his almost equally aged cat is a reminder of the bond between humans and their animals. Now, these two, the cat and the man, got along well because both were a tad crotchety. The man sometimes lost patience with the cat because as he said, 'You never killed nothin'' - not a bird, not a mouse, absolutely nothing. What the cat did like was the man's potato soup, so the man reluctantly shared it. These two did almost everything together; they even went fishing with the cat sitting in the prow of the boat looking very much like a hood ornament. Evidently, the cat loved to do that as she poked her face into the wind and seemed quite happy out on the water. Problems arose one day when the man was already to go fishing and the cat was still asleep. So, as mentioned, he was a bit of a grump, and he decided to go without her. What was the cat supposed to do when she awoke to an empty house? As always, Barry Root's lovely watercolor illustrations add richness to this tale of a unique, deeply felt love.

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