Review of See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog

See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog
by David LaRochelle; illus. by Mike Wohnoutka
Primary    Candlewick    64 pp.    g
9/20    978-1-53620-427-8    $8.99

In three brief stories, this beginning reader inventively supports both traditional and visual literacies. The first chapter, “The Cat,” opens with the sentence “See the cat” on an otherwise blank left-hand page. On the right-hand page, a dog responds, declaring, “I am not a cat. I am a dog.” The text on the left pages continues to expand and embellish the description, and the dog reacts with increased frustration (“I am NOT blue and I am NOT a cat”). There is more to the tale, however, and humor ramps up as surprises occur. The gutter effectively separates the dog’s words (shown in speech balloons) from the words of the narrator (always set on blank pages). In one scene in the second story, “The Snake,” the dog reaches back over to the previous page, pencil in hand, to modify the sentence “The mad snake is going to bite the dog.” None of the secondary characters speaks (including a large, purple, buck-toothed hippo whose not-funny role is as a threat to “sit on the dog”). Short sentences carry a steady rhythm, with word repetition scaffolding language acquisition and offering clever callbacks. Gouache illustrations in subdued hues enliven and support the narrative. This entertaining exploration of words, images, and how they function together to tell a story will be popular with fans of Mo Willems.

From the September/October 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elisa Gall

Elisa Gall is a teacher-librarian at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. 

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