Review Blog

May 24 2017

The Catawampus Cat by Jason Carter Eaton

cover image

Ill. by Gus Gordon. Penguin, 2017. ISBN 9780143785583
(Ages: 4-7) Highly recommended. Cats, change, perspective. The back cover helpfully informs us that the word 'catawampus' means to be askew or at an angle. A Google search confirms that it is indeed a word, albeit usually considered a North American colloquialism. Unsurprisingly then, The Catawampus Cat has been written by an American author. While not particularly well known in Australia, Jason Carter Eaton has previously produced a small number of children's books. Here he teams up with the incredibly talented Gus Gordon (writer and illustrator of the successful Herman and Rosie, among others.)
The town Catawampus Cat walks into is super busy every day, even on a Tuesday (!), but when people start to see and do things differently amazing things happen. Miss Reade, the town librarian, accidentally pulls a book about boatbuilding off the shelf . . . and off she goes on her new boating adventure. Bushy Brows Billiam discovers he can see better if he looks at just the right angle. Soon everyone in town is tilting their head and they are all 'happy and slanty and catawampus'. The ending, in which the Catawampus Cat straightens up and walks out of town, is incredibly funny and thought provoking. It is a great discussion starter about how the cat has again become the catawampus one.
With The Catawampus Cat Gus Gordon lives up to the high expectations Herman and Rosie fans are sure to have. From the story map on the endpapers showing the cat's journey around the town to the humourous, busy and eclectic multimedia pictures within, this book is a visual feast. Each page begs the eye to travel, explore and enjoy. Repeated readings are never boring either, as new elements are just waiting to be discovered. The writing is also a joy; it is witty, uncomplicated and devoid of unnecessary detail. The overarching message is about slowing down and noticing things; it emphasises how looking at things from a different perspective can open our eyes to new opportunities or ways of doing things. Young primary school children and teachers will love this, especially if they are fans of Herman and Rosie.
Nicole Nelson

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