CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 2. . . .September 10, 2010.
The Cat’s Pajamas.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2010.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
English language-Idioms-Juvenile literature.
Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.
It’s always a pleasure to read and explore a new book by Wallace Edwards. The acclaimed author and illustrator has produced The Cat’s Pajamas, a worthy idiom-syncratic and artistic sequel to Monkey Business.
Young children love to learn the conventions of language and to understand the secrets of making a joke. Edwards’ intellectually challenging, ironic, complicated, and colourful illustrations will teach and delight.
“As judge of the Tiny Tot Talent Contest, Leon had to face the music.” – the illustrations show a mighty lion whose mane is being blown back by the force of a horn blown by a tiny chipmunk that would, in natural circumstances, have been swept away by the lion’s paw.
“The Waddle Rockets finally began to pick up speed once Little Red got her duck in a row.” – a plucky hen acts as coxswain, clucking out commands at a team of fat ducks rowing a canoe.
“When it came to cartooning, Elsie had a lot to draw on.” – Elsie is an elephant, whose canvas is her huge hide. She has covered herself in comic animals, coloured pencils at the ready in her trunk to do more.
In Chester’s Masterpiece“In order to have dinner music, Andy was forced to use his noodle.” A panda draws from his plate a long strand of spaghetti with a treble clef at its end, using it as a bow to stroke his violin.
Each idiom is explained through the illustration – a cow “going with the flow” on a surfboard, but the illustrations also convey mood, setting and character. Full of irony, they show the ah-ha moments in nature, from the monarch butterfly that realizes she has “a tiger by the tail” - and the tiger has seen her, or the generous dog named Ahab that releases from his net the small fish he has caught, unaware of the ‘big one’ lurking below, about to engulf his tiny rowboat.
There is much here for children to learn at different ages. Layered with meaning, this book will prove useful for Early Years teachers in their language arts programs and can also be picked up again by Intermediate Years teachers who want to teach their students how to enrich their language and writing. A glossary at the end (”Letting the Cat Out of the Bag”) defines the idioms.
Edwards won the Governor General’s Award (Illustration) for Alphabeasts, his first book. The books that followed are of equal quality. The Cat’s Pajamas and all of Edwards’ books are first-rate resources for any art program to inspire children to use humour in their art as well as to strive for technical excellence.
The Cat’s Pajamas will also be a great quiet time book for children and their parents who love to study drawings and who enjoy the look-and-find challenge that Edwards includes – there’s a cat hidden in each picture. The search to find them is fun and also a teachable moment, one encouraging children to look for detail and information in images.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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