When I saw Red Cat, Blue Cat sitting on a shelf in the New Books area of our library, I knew it had potential. But, even with expectations high, Jenni Desmond's debut surprised me with its greatness. If I wasn't already completely partial and didn't already think Extra Yarn should win the Caldecott by a mile, I'd root for this one. I love the illustrations in Extra Yarn so much because they are so integrally connected to the story. Though the styles are nothing alike, I feel the same way about these cats.
After the cover and title page, I was already totally liking the book. But the official first page pushed me right over the edge into love. Look at this thing. Look at that attic full of house friends. The play on scale and section and "house" blew me away with its clever simplicity. I kept reading the story with a normal voice, but my brain was exploding and shouting, "I LOOOOOOOOVE THIS BOOK! I LOVE THIS PAGE! JUST LOOK AT IT!" Sometimes my boys don't have a clue about the craziness that goes on in my mind at all moments.
Here's the basic storyline: These feuding cats each have a secret. The red cat wishes he was smart and clever like blue cat; blue cat wishes he were bouncy and brave like red cat. After several humorous (and failed) attempts to become more like the cat they envy, each cat learns to appreciate being himself. But, just like most of us, the cats are destined to relearn this lesson sooner rather than later...
The true test of any books greatness is a child's opinion. Mine are enamored. In true rivalry fashion, they fight over who gets to be red cat or blue cat and have been meowing all over the house.
My prediction: Jenni Desmond is just beginning her fantastic career. Check out her website. Her other work is equally intriguing and playful and full of the stuff of which children's books should be made.
|From Backstage Cat, in stores 2013|