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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cats Night Out, written by Caroline Stutson and illustrated by J Klassen. Simon & Schuster, 2010. $19.99 ages 3 and up

"Sixteen rumba
in the dark,
twitching silk bottoms
through the park.

In the city,
windows light.
How many cats
will dance tonight?"

I did not have this book when I read that Jon Klassen had won the Governor General's Literary Award for Children's Literature in the illustration 'cat'egory. I went looking for it; I am happy that I did! There is so much here to love, including this amazing artwork. 

As is his strength, the artist creates an incredible setting for the rhythmic, alluring text and definitively sets the mood for young readers of this 'math book in hiding'. The story begins in an alley near a jazz club where a trumpet riff entices. As the music floats on the air, two cats samba to its beat. The smoky browns, greys, tans of the night offer up a moody background for the tightly entwined pair.

In the next frame, there are two pairs of cats, and the music has changed to a boogie beat. The cats are hip, ladies wearing poodle skirts and saddle shoes. A repetitive chant displays on the facing page and the number 4 is hidden for young and observant eyes to find. Each turn of the page offers up another dancing pair, and a new venue for the accompanying dance. The rhythms of the text change to match the dances; which begin at samba and then move to boogie, tango, tap, line-dance, twist, fox-trot, rumba, polka and finally, a conga line. It's too much for the neighbors who holler for the cats to 'cut it out!' There is to be 'no more dancing on Easy Street!'

It did my heart good on the final two spreads to know that their love of dance has not been thwarted. While the drama of the Saturday night ventures has been impeded by disgruntled sleepyheads, Sunday night provides an opportunity for a slow and elegant waltz for two...and perhaps a second chance. There are sure to be more steps to be danced!

In that short synopsis you get an idea of the wonders of the book...rhythm, repetitive lines, rhyme, textures,
use of color to evoke strong mood and setting, variety in dance steps, text predictability for a young audience, counting by twos and a fun search for the numbers that match the number of cats dancing on the page.

Don't miss it!

1 comment:

  1. Adding this one to my list! (As I type, one of our cats is doing his own dance around my laptop, looking to go out.)