Matilda's Cat by Emily Gravett

A longtime fan of Emily Gravett, this is only my third review of her books. While Gravett is a master of interactive narratives like The Rabbit Problem, Meerkat Mail, Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears and Spells, she is equally gifted with seemingly simple books like Orange Pear Apple BearAGAIN!, Dogs and Wolves, which are magnificent in their economy of text and reliance on the pictures to tell the story. One of Gravett's greatest gifts is her ability to convey thoughts, feelings and sense of place with two pages of illustration that would take most traditional writers several pages of words to create. And this is true for her newest (to America) picture book, Matilda's Cat.

Matilda's Cat is more of a list-book than a traditional story, with the plot unfolding in the illustrations. Dressed in her cat costume, Matilda is ready for a day doing cat things with her unnamed cat. Except, her cat doesn't seem to like doing any of the same things that Matilda does, feline or otherwise. One of the greatest jokes in Matilda's Cat is how Gravett employs the text to tell a story that is opposite the illustrations. Matilda's Cat begins, "Matilda's cat likes playing with wool." A turn of the page shows "playing with wool," crossed off the list and, "boxes," added below. The list grows and grows...

Matilda's cat does not like tea parties. Or funky hats. Or fighting foes. Or drawing. But Matilda's cat does have staying power. And hilarious expressions. While she is wonderful at creating adorable children characters, animals appear more often in Gravett's books and that's ok with me. She has a way with animals and their body language that exemplifies what is best about picture books and the imaginary realms they can inhabit.

The assertions and retractions continue well into the night, when we find Matilda reading a bedtime story. While I don't have the full two page spread to share here, I think that this is one of the best examples of what Gravett can do with pictures rather than words. Matilda sits, engrossed in her book (Gravett's own Dogs, published in 2010) and reaching to pet her cat. Unfortunately, she makes a shadow puppet that sends her cat's tail puffing, back arching and pupils dilating...

The book ends on a very sweet note, despite Matilda's initial frustration. The penultimate page lists all the things that Matilda's cat does NOT like. A page turn, a change into pajamas and a look of wonderment on Matilda's cat's face, along with one last, "Matilda's cat likes," and we see, happily, that Matilda's cat likes . . . MATILDA!! The final page shows the two cozy in bed, eyes closed, enjoying the same thing - at last!

But, there is one last treat for readers, as always with Gravett's books. The endpapers show us Matilda's cat, leaving paw prints across the floor, springing in attack! What is Matilda's cat attacking? Matilda's slippers (which look like dogs...)!

More from the amazing Emily Gravett:

AGAIN!                The Rabbit Problem

Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears by Emily Gravett: Book CoverSpells by Emily Gravett: Book Cover

Dogs by Emily Gravett: Book CoverMeerkat Mail by Emily Gravett: Book CoverMonkey and Me by Emily Gravett: Book Cover
The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett: Book CoverOrange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett: Book CoverWolves by Emily Gravett: Book Cover

Source: Review Copy

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