CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 14. . . .December 3, 2010.
Do You Have a Cat?
Eileen Spinelli. Illustrated by Geraldo Valério.
Grand Rapids,, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2010.
26 pp., hardcover, $15.99.
Stories in rhyme.
Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 3-8.
Review by Jonine Bergen.
Domenico Scarlatti had a cat.
A curious cat. One who explored
The great composer’s harpsichord.
She walked the keys, enjoyed the tone,
Created music of her own.
Do YOU have a cat?
With Do You Have a Cat? Eileen Spinelli and Geraldo Valério revisit the formula that made Do You Have a Hat? successful. As with their previous excursion into the past, Spinelli’s text introduces a variety of famous and lesser known historical figures through rhyme and a cute, comfortable, familiar object – this time some furry felines instead of cozy hats.
The strength of this vibrant and whimsical picture book lies with the fanciful acrylic paintings which Valério imbued with strong colours. Each two-page spread is set in an environment depicting what the historical figure is known for: Florence Nightingale is shown in a hospital ward; Domenico Scarlatti is featured with sheet music and a harpsichord; Henri Matisse is in a studio surrounded by pictures. Within each painting, Valério has emphasized the historical figure and his or her cat in the foreground, but he has also filled the background with cats participating in a variety of activities appropriate for that time period.
I particularly appreciate Valério’s use of colour. Although Do You Have a Cat? is a picture book for preschoolers, he chose not use primary colours in his palette. Instead, his art is defined by rich indigos, earthy yellows, lime greens and turquoise. Also, he uses humour and whimsy with his cats; one reader giggled when she saw a pair of underwear on a cat’s head.
The text of veteran author Eileen Spinelli partners Valério’s art seamlessly. Spinelli, too, uses humour and a varied vocabulary within the stanzas used to introduce each set of historical figures. Her use of repetition of the title within each page will quickly invite the listeners to chime in with, “Do you have a cat?” at the end of each page. A bonus to this playful bat at the past are the historical notes found on the endpapers of the book.
Jonine Bergen is librarian in Winnipeg, MB, with a cat wrapped around her neck.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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