So, What's It Like to Be a Cat?


So, what's it like to be a cat?
I'm very glad you asked me that.
Are cats afraid of the dark? Where do they prefer to sleep? What time do cats eat their breakfast? And what do they really think of dogs (and people!)? The award-winning team of Karla Kuskin and Betsy Lewin explore the secret inner lives of felines in this beguiling question-and-answer interview between an intrepid child and a very clever cat.

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So, what's it like to be a cat?
I'm very glad you asked me that.
Are cats afraid of the dark? Where do they prefer to sleep? What time do cats eat their breakfast? And what do they really think of dogs (and people!)? The award-winning team of Karla Kuskin and Betsy Lewin explore the secret inner lives of felines in this beguiling question-and-answer interview between an intrepid child and a very clever cat.

A cat answers a young child's questions about such things as how much and where it sleeps, and whether or not it likes living with people.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lewin's (Cat Count) title page illustration cleverly makes clear the premise of Kuskin's (Toots the Cat, reviewed above) playful poem by featuring an announcement on a schoolroom blackboard: "Today's Assignment: An Interview." A boy sits in a pupil's wooden chair with paper and pencil while a gray cat reclines in a director's chair, as if she were the prized guest of a late night show. "So, what's it like to be a cat?" asks the red-haired boy. "I'm very glad you asked me that," answers the yellow-eyed feline, and she launches into a description of her habits ("slipping out on silent feet,/ I search for something nice to eat") and the differences between cats and other creatures. The boy's questions punctuate his subject's self-centered riffs about where she sleeps and demonstrations of how well she can leap. Lewin's fetchingly feline black-lined watercolors on stark white pages model how the pet can "bounce and pounce/ and slide and sally,/ rush and run/ and twirl and spring" until she literally knocks her interviewer off his chair. The furry star is fittingly egotistical and arch, whimsical and proud. At times, the rhyming text seems a tad formal for a conversation, but throughout Lewin underscores the humor inherent in Kuskin's depiction of a cat's narcissistic existence, and the black-lined gray heroine exhibits all that a feline should be "Meow. And how." Ages 3-8. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3-Two award winners team up to explore playfully the essence of being a cat. The framework of an interview between a boy and a feline allows for a series of skillfully constructed calls and responses. For example, the youngster asks, "Do you have a kitty bed/with your picture at the head?" and his subject replies, "I do not have a kitty bed/to rest my kitty tail and head./I'd rather/sleep most anywhere/that's warm and soft:/a couch,/a chair,/a sleeping loft;/I'll curl up there." Within strong black lines, the loosely composed watercolor cartoons perfectly capture the range of expressions, postures, and mischievous ways of cats. The illustrations are set against crisp white backgrounds and each page offers a diverse layout that enhances the cadence of the poem. This inextricable interplay of art and text works harmoniously to provide a delightful portrait of the capricious nature of felines. A great choice for reading aloud.-Caroline Ward, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A boy interviews his cat in an exchange that illustrates Kuskin's perfect apprehension of the feline psyche. When its questioner expresses some anxiety about dark corridors, the cat responds with utter scorn; with relish, it demonstrates both its sleeping and its leaping, explaining that "Sometimes a feline / must fly free." The delightfully sinuous verse slides in and out of rhyming patterns, slipping extra syllables into the line, or shortening them as the cat explores its mercurial moods. Lewin's illustrations lean toward the comic, presenting a character who is significantly goofier than it represents itself in the discussion. Her characteristic heavy black outline tends toward the lumpy, and the big yellow eyes give the cat a rather lunatic aspect. Regrettably, this disconnect between the illustrations and the verse does not sufficiently develop an ironic tension that could create picture-book synergy. One would wish for either a literal interpretation or a wholly over-the-top deconstruction of the cat as poseur. As it is, the result is a superficially pleasing but ultimately unsatisfying mismatch of word and image. (Picture book. 3-8)
From the Publisher
"Karla Kuskin's wit is at its finest." - The New York Times

"Delightfully saucy." -Horn Book

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689847332
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 5/31/2005
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 662,061
  • Age range: 3 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.90 (w) x 0.40 (h) x 10.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Cats have permitted Karla Kuskin to observe their antics for a very long time. She's found that they especially like to nap on her papers when she is trying to write about them! She has written dozens of poetry collections and picture books, including Roar and More; The Philharmonic Gets Dressed; The Animals and the Ark; and Moon, Have You Met My Mother? She has won numerous awards for her witty way with words, including the prestigious NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children and the Children's Book Council's Lifetime Achievement Award. She lives with her husband and Velma the cat on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Betsy Lewin is the Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator of Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type and its sequels, Giggle, Giggle, Quack; Duck for President; Dooby Dooby Moo; and Thump, Quack, Moo; in addition to a number of other picture books, including So, What’s It Like to Be a Cat? and Where Is Tippy Toes? She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2008

    charming and hilarious (writing and illustrations)

    my 3-year-old daughter (with an excellent sense of humor, of course) loves this book. makes her laugh over and over. the fact that she has a cat herself is significant in appreciating the book (as is the vigorous delivery of the reader).

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