“There was a cat who lived alone.” So begins award-winning author/illustrator Elisha Cooper’s simple and profound story of the cycle of love and loss told through the saga of a family’s cats. Cooper uses bold, black lines, white space and affectionate, loving depictions of the animal characters to create a book that can be read again and again.
At the outset, readers see a white cat that goes about daily activities children will easily recognize: looking out the window at the bird feeder, grooming itself, waiting by the fridge for dinner and perching on the top of the furniture.
And then, one day, a new cat arrives: a little black kitten. And the first cat becomes its friend, showing it how to be and what to do. We see both pets growing, playing and settling into their routines (there are now two frustrated felines with their noses pressed against the window to watch birds!).
But time passes, and subtly we see the first cat grow older. It naps on a blanket now, instead of joining the other cat. The inevitable happens. In a powerful silhouette image—our first glimpse of the humans of this family—we learn that the big cat doesn’t come back. This is hard. “For everyone.” But then a new cat comes, and the cycle begins again.
With all the makings of an instant classic, Big Cat, Little Cat captures the love we feel for the animals in our lives and the affection they have for one another. And as an added bonus, pet lovers won’t want to miss the dedication to a long list of furry friends.
Deborah Hopkinson lives near Portland, Oregon. Her most recent book for young readers is Independence Cake.