Review of Big Cat, Little Cat

big cat, little catstar2 Big Cat, Little Cat
by Elisha Cooper; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Roaring Brook    40 pp.
3/17    978-1-62672-371-9    $16.99

Spare in both text and illustration, this is an affecting, unsentimental picture book about the cycle of life. Cooper (Train, rev. 1/14; Farm, rev. 5/10) often takes detailed looks at broad topics. Here his focus is smaller and the details are almost entirely gone, replaced by minimalist art that rivets our attention on a housecat and its kitten companion — and then, after the passage of years and the death of the first cat, the now-grown second cat’s companion. “There was a cat // who lived alone. / Until the day // a new cat came. // …Big cat, little cat.” Small black-and-white vignettes scattered on pages of clean white space depict the cats’ daily activities; these dynamic pages are punctuated, as the book progresses, by double-page spreads with colored backgrounds that feature large close-ups. These interspersed spreads serve two purposes: they mark downtimes in the story (after a flurry of activity, the cats always take a rest together), and they mark the passage of time. For example, the first such spread shows the larger, older white cat curled up with the little black kitten; the second spread, several pages later, shows the two cats, now of equal size; the third spread (the last illustration in the book) shows the black cat curled up with a new white kitten. Cooper’s thick black lines produce figures full of kinetic energy and personality. The circular nature of the story is beautifully reinforced by the repetition in both art and text, and the result is at once realistic and comforting.

From the March/April 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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