June 2005

Purrfectly priceless

By Karla Kuskin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin
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Renowned children's author and poet Karla Kuskin teams up with Betsy Lewin and her whimsical watercolors to bring young readers a treasure in So, What's It Like to Be a Cat? The story really starts on the title page, where we see a young interviewer settling into a wooden chair, while the cat looks rather comfortable in a canvas director's chair. I guess we know who the star is! The brazen interviewer is a little boy who opens with the question posed in the title. And the cat, a simple short-haired gray slip of a feline, answers all the queries in deft verse. As the interview continues, the boy adopts the same rhyming style and the tale comes to amusing life.

With a generous typeface that could be comfortably read from the reading rug, this book begs to be read in two voices. One voice would be interested, serious and probing. The answer would mimic the illustrations, in which the cat barely tolerates some of the queries. Do you have a kitty bed with your picture at the head? To which our little star responds, I do not have a kitty bed to rest my kitty tail and head. I'd rather sleep most anywhere that's warm and soft: a couch, a chair, a sleeping loft; I'll curl up there. The illustrations here show the cat, four feet in the air, commandeering the couch, snuggling in a Queen Anne chair and climbing up a ladder to the top bunk.

When the cat describes her leaping and dancing ability, Lewin's hilarious and satisfying illustrations soar right along with the cat. Her inner cat silliness spills all over the pages as she bounces and sallies, twirls and springs, because that is a part of me. Sometimes a feline must fly free.

Cat lovers will adore this book and dog lovers will hope for another interview, this time with the earnest boy and a lovable golden retriever. With its hilarious illustrations and easy-to-read format, this will be a book that new readers will return to over and over. And the adults who get to play the part of the cat will not mind one bit.

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So, What’s It Like to Be a Cat?

So, What’s It Like to Be a Cat?

By Karla Kuskin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin
ISBN 9780689847332

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