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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

They All Saw a Cat, written and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. Chronicle, Raincoast. 2016. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"The cat walked through
the world, with its
whiskers, ears and
paws ...

and the fish saw
and the mouse
saw A CAT."

This absolutely unique and gorgeous book is ALL about perception. Each of the featured creatures saw a cat; they did not all see the same thing. It depends on the eye of the beholder, it seems.

The child sees a loving, friendly pet. The dog sees a sneaky, slinky, bony apparition with huge yellow eyes and an oversized bell around its neck. Too noisy for the dog? I wonder. The fox sees lunch, while the cat is focused on the terror of the chase. And so it goes ...

After a number of sightings, the reader is reminded that:

"The cat walked through the world,
with its whiskers, ears and paws ... "

looking just as we suspect everyone sees that cat. But, no! It is not true.

The text is rhythmically repetitive, and certainly easy to read and to follow. Set alongside Brendan Wenzel's attention-grabbing images, we see exactly how perception alters our view. The description for the art that graces the book's pages reads:

"The illustrations in the book were rendered in almost everything imaginable, including colored pencil, oil pastels, acrylic paint, watercolor, charcoal, Magic Marker, good old number 2 pencils, and even an iBook."

How lucky are we that he is so adept with each?

Everyone sees the cat differently. How that cat is perceived affects reaction and feelings toward it. They all did see a cat, we are reminded. The artistic style changes with each new observer. This is a book about science and art, about readers and empathy, and about imagination and wonder. It is a personal and beautiful thing!

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