Skip to main content

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel


In early 2014 I reviewed the picture book Some Bugs, written by Angela Di Terlizzi and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. A fantastic, rhyming book, Wenzel's illustrations were unforgettable, calling to mind Eric Carle with a goofy undercurrent. I have been following Wenzel's career since then and am so excited to be reviewing the first picture book written an illustrated, They All Saw a Cat.



They All Saw a Cat is a story of observation and perspective, the idea for the book coming to Wenzel several years ago when he was teaching art classes in Nepal, noting that, "if every kid in the classroom draws the exact same thing - say, a cat - they will come up with a unique image, depending on their perspectives on and experiences with cats, that puts the animal in a different, new light." They All Saw a Cat follows a cat as it walks through the world, each person and creature who sees the cat viewing it differently. They All Saw a Cat is simple and brilliant, living up to all the praise that has been heaped upon it (see the end of the review for details of the heaps of praise.) 


Wenzel's text in They All Saw a Cat is sleekly repetitive - read it out loud and you will probably find yourself instinctively singing the words. The book begins, "The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears and paws . . ." To the child, the cat is all sweet, big eyes and happiness. To the dog, the cat is skinny and suspicious, slinking past. And to the fox? The cat is a puffy, mouthwatering, marshmallow of a morsel.




They All Saw a Cat twist and turns, just like the titular cat. How the cat looks to prey and predators, how the cat looks to a bee and to a worm, a flea and a bat, are just a few of the perspectives we are treated to as the cat walks through the world. The climax of the book finds the cat, a patchwork of all the perspectives. In the final pages, the cat approaches a pond, glimpsing his reflection, the text asking, "imagine what it saw?"



As the article in Publisher's Weekly from 2014 revealed, They All Saw a Cat was part of an eight publisher bidding war that was won by Chronicle Books, earning Wenzel a two-book deal and a six-figure deal. As the press material that came with They All Saw a Cat revealed, an editor from one of the losing houses proclaimed, "You guy have the next freakin' Eric Carle." My time working as an assistant to an agent was coming to an end just as Brendan Wenzel was introduced to him by Angela Di Terlizzi. Having witnessed a few bidding wars for manuscripts, I can only imagine what it was like in the office on the day that Chronicle prevailed. It's not often that a talent - and book - like Wenzel's comes along, and, as Ginee Seo, children's publishing director at Chronicle said, "I feel a bit embarrassed using a cliché, but as soon as I saw the proposal , I felt I was looking at an instant classic. . . the book is so intelligent and well thought-out that form the very first words and images you know you're in the hands of someone who is confident and knows what he is doing. Brendan's writing is spare and has a rhythm and pacing that is unusual for an artist to achieve. And his art has a sense of movement that is just beautiful. As an editor, I knew immediately that this was really rare." 

Source: Review Copy

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Seeing Stick, written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Daniela J Terrazini

The Seeing Stick is an original Chinese fairy tale written by the prolific (and prolifically award winning) Jane Yolen. First published in 1977 with illustrations by Remy Charlip (author and illustrator of the brilliantly fun picture book Fortunately and friend and muse to Brian Selznick, who asked him to pose as George Méliès while he was working on the Caldecott winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret) The Seeing Stick was reissued with new illustrations by Daniela J. Terrazini in 2009. I have not seen Charlip's version, but Terrazini's is a beautiful work of art and the book itself is yet another magnificently packaged book published by Running Press, the house that brought us Steven Arntson's The Wikkeling, yet another superbly and uniquely packaged children's book with artwork by Terrazini. Interestingly, both The Wikkeling and The Seeing Stick were designed by Frances J Soo Ping Chow.

The Seeing Stick begins, "Once in the ancient walled citadel of Peking there l…

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!

Be…