January 05, 2006


Kate, the Cat and the Moon. By David Almond and Stephen Lambert. Doubleday. $15.95.

The Me Book. By Jean Tymms. Illustrated by Tibor Gergely. Golden Books. $5.99.

     Young children need not search for adventure in far-off places.  They can find plenty of it close to home, as these two books show.  Kate, the Cat and the Moon, for ages 4-8, is novelist David Almond’s first picture book.  And a charming one it is, thanks partly to Almond’s story and partly to Stephen Lambert’s pleasantly evocative illustrations.  The tale is a simple one of a young girl named Kate who has a wonderful dream.  Late one moonlit night, she sees a brilliant white cat sitting on a garden wall near her home.  The cat says “meow,” and when Kate responds “meow’ in turn, she is transformed into a cat herself, spending the night seeing the wonders of everyday feline life: a cat-shaped moon, a “sky [that] was full of dreams,” and all the fields, hedges and ditches of a pleasant countryside.  The tour over, Kate returns home, and with another “meow” exchange, is transformed back to a little girl, whose whole family talks about dreams at breakfast.  It’s a straightforward tale, but very well told and highly enjoyable.  Try it as a bedtime story – it invites pleasant dreams.

     The Me Book represents adventure of a different kind.  It is all about self-discovery: what a child’s body is and what it can do.  Originally published in 1974 and now reissued in an attractive board-book format, The Me Book is simplicity itself, using animals as stand-ins for kids until the very end.  For example, monkeys are featured on the “my arms are for” pages, which show simians – dressed in kids’ clothing – hugging, making muscles and more.  Koalas appear on the “my hands are for” pages – tickling and making mud pies, among other things.  Tibor Gergely’s hippos on the “my waist is for” pages are especially whimsical, notably when twisting and when putting a belt on.  At the end, Jean Tymms writes, “all of me is for” such activities as climbing, hiding, dancing and somersaulting.  Here the illustrations actually show children – modified in this edition for 21st-century multicultural sensibilities.  This is an attractive early-reading book with some genuinely funny illustrations: check out the parasol-carrying kangaroo wearing floral-design sunglasses, the pig whistling a tune, and the frog putting on sneakers.

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