Picture Book Review: If Not for the Cat by Jack Prelutsky

Picture Book Review: If Not for the Cat by Jack Prelutsky

This is what a picture book should be. A perfect pairing of beautiful text and beautiful illustrations. 

I love haiku and Jack Prelutsky’s verses are beautiful examples of the form. I love poems that linger, that take up residence in your heart and resonate long after the book is closed. The title poem has made a nest in my ear and sings to me while I’m doing the dishes:

If not for the cat,
And the scarcity of cheese,
I could be content.

It has something of the simplicity and weight that I find so pleasing in William Carlos Williams. And several others are beginning to work their way in as well.

Safe inside my pouch
Sleeps the future of my kind—
Delicate and frail.

Nor am I the only one. After only two or three readings Bella remembers and recites quite a few lines. I have found her picking up the book on her own, flipping through the pages, and reciting what she remembers.

Each poem is in the voice of a different animal and Prelutsky’s genius is in the personality of the different voices, hard to convey in a so short a form as haiku. I love the way he captures the slow sloth, the hive mind of the ants, (humorously followed immediately by the ant eater), and the threat of the snake and skunk.

Especially memorable are the rounded polysyllables of the jellyfish:

Boneless, translucent,
We undulate, undulate,

Ted Rand’s paintings are a lovely match, each one has a very different tone, well suited to the paired poem. My favorite is definitely the dark, moody one of the moth drawing close to a candle. Though the bright hummingbird hovering near festive orange nasturtiums is also right up there.

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  • Aren’t those new toys great?
    Aren’t our husbands great?  LOL

    For some reason I can’t seem to add your blog to my GoogleReader. Wonder what’s up with that! Something “Mac-y” perhaps?

  • Yes, they are! Toys and husbands both.

    You don’t seem to be the only one who has problems with Google Reader. Try clicking “Add a Subscription” in the Google Reader page (in the left-hand column near the top) and pasting this link manually into the box:

    Please let me know if that doesn’t work.

  • I love my MacBook. Funnily enough my big girls don’t … they love the iMac and complain the MacBook is too slow. I think it is because they do a lot of playing around with pictures, and I have it set up with different accounts. I’m trying to see if I can speed it up by getting rid of trash and combining accounts … then again, perhaps I should leave it slow so I don’t have to share it!