‘Inside Cat knows many windows, finds a view wherever it goes. Wanders. Wonders. Gazes. Gapes. Sees the world through many shapes…’
What’s inside and what is not? What exists and what does not? Prepare to have your perceptions challenged in this intriguing picturebook, and keep your eyes open for visual and verbal clues to help you observe – or invent – the answers.
True to its name, the cat in this story lives indoors. Home is a rambling mansion with endless windows offering tantalizing glimpses of a city it doesn’t understand, and as Cat wanders from room to room, it records its strange experiences on the pages of this book.
Naturally, things get a bit mixed up. Cat doesn’t have the right words for everything it sees, and there are many questions to be answered. But it makes sense to call a helicopter a roaring fly, and that child on the seesaw really could be playing with a dragon. Besides, with an imagination like Cat’s, who needs the facts?
Just as we’re wondering whether Cat might know it ALL comes a delightful final page-reveal. The doors to the mansion have been left open. The cat is faced with a city that is bigger and brighter than anything it has imagined – and we are challenged, too, with a view that sends us back to earlier spreads to spot what’s going on.
Drawn with loose, flowing lines that capture feelings as well as movements, Cat is an appealingly eccentric character, and Wenzel’s artwork cues readers to observe and deduce, too. Monochromatic doodles show us what is in Cat’s mind, whereas brighter colours are reserved for what is ‘real’: the walls of the house, glimpses of the city through a pane of glass. The resulting multi-image spreads are visually busy and convey a sense of energy and joy, and Wenzel’s rhythmic text has a jaunty energy to match. This provides a good framework for the action, but be prepared for some half-rhymes that rely on U.S. pronunciation. Wenzel’s choices lead to some wonderfully inventive images, but could feel a little off key if you’re reading aloud and have been enjoying the flow.
Inside Cat will be particularly enjoyed in contexts where confident, enthusiastic adults engage with children as they read. The visual literacy needed to connect with and interpret these spreads may discourage some families, though.